Sunak under pressure to act over Braverman’s attack on police
Suella Braverman’s future is in the balance as Rishi Sunak considers how to respond to her article accusing police of bias over protests in support of Palestine, which was not cleared by No 10.
She claimed there is a perception that police “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian protesters who are “largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law”.
The latest inflammatory comment by the Home Secretary prompted frustration and unease among Conservative MPs and sparked calls for the Prime Minister to sack her after she failed to get Number 10 to sign off The Times piece.
Senior officers and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service stressed the need for the police to be able to operate independently without political interreference.
The Home Secretary’s actions have added to the 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 expected to go near the monument.
Mr Sunak will need to decide whether the Home Secretary’s actions breached the ministerial code and, if so, whether he should sack her.
Education minister Robert Halfon said Mrs Braverman has a “unique way of expressing herself”.
“The Home Secretary has been doing her job and of course I respect that but of course the focus has got to be to ensure that the Remembrance services go ahead peacefully and securely this weekend,” he told LBC.
He would not say whether he agreed with Mrs Braverman’s assessment of alleged police bias.
And he insisted it was a matter for the Prime Minister and his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to decide whether Mrs Braverman breached the code.
“Downing Street have absolutely made it clear that they’re looking into the article, that they hadn’t cleared it before it was published and I’m sure that we will get the outcome of that soon,” he told Sky News.
Asked whether Sir Laurie was involved at this stage, he said: “No, what I’m saying is that Downing Street have made clear that there are internal procedures in terms of publishing articles.
“Whenever a minister writes an article it must be cleared by Downing Street.”
Downing Street was still investigating on Thursday night the “details” about how the article – which contained a widely criticised comparison between “pro-Palestinian mobs” and marches in Northern Ireland – was sent for publication.
It is understood that 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 Mrs 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 that 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 Mrs 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.”
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.
There has been speculation that the Prime Minister may want to wait for that decision on a flagship project championed by Mrs Braverman before embarking on any reshuffle.
The row comes with only a day to go until tens of thousands of people take to the streets for the pro-Palestinian march.
Mrs Braverman’s article had reflected her frustration with Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley, who has resisted pressure from senior Tories to ban the demonstration in the capital.
Gavin Stephens, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said that political views could not be allowed to influence decision making.
“The decisions that we take are not easy ones, but we do so impartially, without fear or favour, and in line with both the law and our authorised professional practice,” he said.
Steve Hartshorn, national chairman of the Police Federation which represents rank and file officers, told Today that officers feared being caught between a rock and a hard place over the pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day.
He said: “I can pretty much guarantee this weekend, if things go different to plan and it’s not safe, it will be police officers that get injured, members of the public, that will then be blamed on the police.
“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Parkinson wrote in the Telegraph that “effective and fair justice requires independent institutions to apply the law without fear or favour”.
He added: “Throughout this challenging period, the police have undoubtedly carried out their role with independence, resilience and grit.”
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