Protests Israel-Gaza: Suella Braverman isolated as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt distances himself amid Met Police warning over protests
Facing pressure to sack Ms Braverman, Rishi Sunak continued to express his confidence in her, but No.10 declined to say whether the pair had spoken since her inflammatory unauthorised article.
No 10 said they were working “very closely” ahead of Saturday’s heavily-policed march, but chose not to repeat her widely-criticised language in a piece for The Times.
She claimed there was a perception police “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian protesters who are “largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law”.
It comes as the officer-in-charge of policing London during Saturday’s pro-Palestine protest refused to comment on whether Ms Braverman’s comments about police bias had undermined the force.
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We’ve got a really difficult weekend this weekend … it’s not my place to comment on politics.”
She said the Met Police was doing “everything” in its power to ensure Jewish Londoners feel safe.
The home secretary’s actions have added to tension around the march planned for Saturday – Armistice Day – by pro-Palestinian groups, and the risk of counter-protests, particularly around the Cenotaph, even though the demonstration is not intended to go near the monument.
Scotland Yard will deploy nearly 2,000 officers across central London in a major policing operation over the weekend, with an exclusion zone for protesters imposed around the Cenotaph to prevent splinter groups congregating around national remembrance events.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign behind the demonstration anticipated more than 500,000 people would join their protest to back a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in what it billed as one of the largest political marches in British history.
Ms Braverman’s article prompted frustration and concern among Conservative MPs and sparked calls for the Prime Minister to dismiss her for failing to get sign-off from No 10.
Mr Hunt said he has a “productive relationship” with Ms Braverman, but signalled Cabinet unease by telling reporters “the words that she used are not words that I myself would have used”.
A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to endorse the home secretary’s comments and stressed it was for police to “make operational decisions” surrounding protests.
The official said the Prime Minister “has confidence” in Ms Braverman, but did not rule out a Cabinet reshuffle, saying she would not discuss “speculation”.
Mr Sunak will need to decide whether the home secretary’s actions breached the ministerial code and, if so, whether he should sack her.
Senior officers and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service stressed the need for the police to be able to operate independently without political interference.
One senior Met Police officer, who did not wish to be named, accused Ms Braverman of “giving permission” to far-right extremists to try to disrupt pro-Palestinian protests this weekend.
She was also accused of “stoking fear” after her comments suggesting the policing of demonstrations was biased.
Education minister Robert Halfon said Ms Braverman had a “unique way of expressing herself”, but would not say whether he agreed with the assessment of alleged police bias.
No.10 was still internally investigating the “details” about how the article, which contained a comparison between “pro-Palestinian mobs” and marches in Northern Ireland, was sent for publication. He has not referred the matter to ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus.
It is understood the article was submitted to No.10, but did not get signed off as significant alterations were requested. The piece was published nonetheless.
Opposition parties called on Mr Sunak to sack the home secretary, with Labour calling him “spineless” for failing to act. Even some Conservative MPs believe that Ms Braverman has gone too far.
Justice Committee chairman Tory Sir Bob Neill said on LBC her position was “untenable”.
A Conservative former Cabinet minister said Mr Sunak should consider dismissing her if he cannot resolve the situation, as the row “undermines” the Tory party.
And Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the influential backbench Tory 1922 Committee, suggested “we cannot carry on as we are” with Mrs Braverman as home secretary, and Mr Sunak may be forced to act.
“I think he will certainly want to have a very serious conversation with her to seek an undertaking from her that either she will handle it in a calmer, private way in the future or possibly consider it’s time for her to move to another job in the Cabinet,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
But Ms Braverman has supporters on the right of the party and any move against her by Mr Sunak could deepen divisions within Tory ranks.
Tory MP Miriam Cates told Today: “I think the home secretary has a view that is very mainstream in the rest of the UK.”
Lee Anderson, the Tory deputy chairman, said the home secretary was “guilty of saying what most of us are thinking and saying”.
“Thank goodness we have a home secretary who refuses to be cancelled,” he said.
There is long-standing speculation at Westminster that Mr Sunak will carry out a major ministerial reshuffle ahead of the general election expected next year, which could see Mrs Braverman moved. More immediately, the Supreme Court will next week rule whether Government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful.
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