Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under pressure to sack Home Secretary Suella Braverman after “she offended just about everyone” when she wrote an article accusing police of bias over protests in support of Palestine, defying No 10 in the process.
Her claim that there is a perception some senior officers “play favourites”, only the latest inflammatory comment by the Home Secretary in recent days, has prompted frustration and unease among Conservative MPs and led to calls for the Prime Minister to sack her after she failed to get No 10 to sign off on the article for The Times.
Late on Thursday, No 10 was still investigating the “details” about how the article, which also contained a widely criticised comparison between “pro-Palestinian mobs” and marches in Northern Ireland, was still sent for publication.
Ms Braverman’s article reflected her frustration with Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley, who has resisted pressure from senior Tories to ban the demonstration in the capital.
On Sunday, Ms Braverman condemned anti-Semitic chants and placards at Saturday’s pro-Palestinian march and called for “further action”.
Writing on social media, the Home Secretary said: “The sick, inflammatory and, in some cases, clearly criminal chants, placards and paraphernalia openly on display at the march mark a new low. Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism together with the valorising of terrorism on such a scale is deeply troubling.
“This can’t go on. Week by week, the streets of London are being polluted by hate, violence, and anti-Semitism. Members of the public are being mobbed and intimidated. Jewish people in particular feel threatened. Further action is necessary.”
She also praised police for their handling of the protests.
“Our brave police officers deserve the thanks of every decent citizen for their professionalism in the face of violence and aggression from protesters and counter protesters in London yesterday.
“That multiple officers were injured doing their duty is an outrage.”
Mr Sunak is facing calls – both from within his party and the opposition Labour Party – to remove the Home Secretary, who claimed the protesters were “largely ignored” by officers “even when clearly breaking the law”.
On Friday, a spokesman said Mr Sunak continued to express his confidence in her, but No 10 declined to say whether the pair had spoken since her inflammatory unauthorised article.
In The Times on Thursday, Ms Braverman said: “I do not believe that these marches are merely a cry for help for Gaza.
“They are an assertion of primacy by certain groups – particularly Islamists – of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland.
“Also disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster are the reports that some of Saturday's march group organisers have links to terrorist groups, including Hamas.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims said her “divisive comments that fuel hatred” had left British Muslim communities feeling unsafe.
The Home Secretary is “fanning the flames of hate and inspiring the far-right”, the group wrote on social media.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a Conservative MP, acknowledged on Friday that it may be time for her to be moved in a reshuffle if she does not agree to an undertaking to calm tension rather than rile people up.
“We cannot carry on as we are,” he said.
“Airing her views in public” did not help the situation at all, he said.
Conservative MP Miriam Cates defended the Home Secretary after she suggested police “play favourites” with pro-Palestinian protesters.
“I think the Home Secretary has a view that is very mainstream in the rest of the UK,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
She said she would “completely disagree” that Ms Braverman was making matters worse with her commentary.
Senior Conservative Party member Sir Bob Neill conceded that her position was “untenable”.
The Justice Committee chair told LBC: “I think she’s gone over the line.”
Pro-Palestinian protests in London – in pictures
A Conservative former cabinet minister also told PA that Mr Sunak should consider dismissing her if he cannot resolve the situation as the row “undermines” the Tory party.
A number of Northern Irish politicians called for her to be sacked due to her claim that pro-Palestinian “hate marches” were “disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster”.
Colum Eastwood, the MP for Foyle and the leader of the nationalist SDLP, called her a “pound shop Enoch Powell”, in reference to a 1960s Conservative politician whose “rivers of blood” speech criticising the rate of immigration was widely interpreted as stirring racial hatred.
“She has managed to offend just about everyone – no mean feat in a divided society,” he said. “The only appropriate action now is her removal from office.”
It is understood that the article was submitted to No 10, but did not get approval because significant alterations were requested. The piece was published nonetheless.
Labour mocked the Prime Minister as spineless and argued that the move by Ms Braverman amounted to a breach of the ministerial code.
It states that “all major interviews and media appearances, both print and broadcast, should also be agreed with the No 10 press office”.
It remains to be seen if the Prime Minister will move against Ms Braverman, who he appointed to the high-level post when he took over from Liz Truss late last year.
Former chancellor George Osborne used his Political Currency podcast to claim that Mr Sunak had “come very close” to sacking Ms Braverman in the past.
It has long been speculated that Mr Sunak will want to carry out a major ministerial reshuffle ahead of the coming general election, expected next year.
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 before embarking on any reshuffle.