Suella Braverman: Rishi Sunak did not sign off Home Secretary's article accusing Met Police of bias, No10 says
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The Home Secretary wrote an article in the Times saying the police force was "playing favourites" by not blocking the Armistice Day march arranged by who she termed "pro-Palestinian mobs". Labour accused her of "attempting to rip up the operational independence of the police, attacking their impartiality in the crudest and most partisan of ways".
Rishi Sunak's spokesman said the piece was "not cleared by Number 10", adding Downing Street is "looking into what happened". He refused to say whether Sunak supported Braverman's comments, instead stating that the PM had laid out his view on the matter yesterday.
Despite this, the Sunak still has "full confidence" in Braverman, the spokesman said. Asked whether the Home Secretary’s actions amounted to a breach of the ministerial code, he said: “I’m not the arbiter of the code, it’s not for me to opine.” The Institute for Government said: "The Ministerial Code does require media appearances to be cleared with the No10 press office, so to that extent this looks like it could be a breach of the code."
He added: “The Prime Minister continues to believe that the police will operate without fear or favour." When questioned by journalists about potentially inflammatory comments, the spokesman said "it's important [for ministers] to consider their language carefully."
The PM's spokesman was also asked by reporters if he has a good relationship with the Home Secretary, to which he replied: "They continued to work closely together."
Writing in The Times, 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.” She added: “Right-wing and nationalist protesters who engage in aggression are rightly met with a stern response yet pro-Palestinian mobs displaying almost identical behaviour are largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law? I have spoken to serving and former police officers who have noted this double standard.
“Football fans are even more vocal about the tough way they are policed as compared to politically connected minority groups favoured by the left. It may be that senior officers are more concerned with how much flak they are likely to get than whether this perceived unfairness alienates the majority. The government has a duty to take a broader view.”
Her comments have sparked a fresh row within the Conservative Party, with Cabinet colleague Mark Harper slapping them down, after ministers have in recent days already sought to distance themselves from other claims she made describing homelessness as a “lifestyle choice”.
The Prime Minister is facing calls from opposition parties to sack Braverman over the “irresponsible” and “divisive” remarks about policing which they say fan the risk of unrest this weekend.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told MPs: "We have seen her words this morning, attempting to rip up the operational independence of the police, attacking their impartiality in the crudest and most partisan of ways, deliberately undermining respect for the police at a sensitive time when they have an important job to do, deliberately seeking to create division around Remembrance.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described Braverman as “divisive” and “stoking up tension at the very time we should be trying to reduce tension. “She is doing the complete opposite of what I think most people in this country would see as the proper role of the Home Secretary,” he said. He added that this was “compounded by the fact that we’ve got a Prime Minister who’s too weak to do anything about it.
She added: “She is encouraging extremists on all sides, attacking the police when she should be backing them. It is highly irresponsible and dangerous, and no other Home Secretary would ever have done this.”
While the former chief inspector of constabulary Sir Tom Winsor said Braverman’s comment “crosses the line” by breaking the convention that a Home Secretary should not question the operational integrity of the police.
This is not the first time Braverman has been caught up in a row about the ministerial code. In October 2022, in the dying days of the Liz Truss government, she resigned from her role as Home Secretary after admitting to a “mistake” which breached both national security rules and the ministerial code.
The Fareham MP wrote that she had “sent an official document from [her] personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague.” She admitted: “This constitutes a technical infringement of the rules.” Braverman added a caveat to her mistake, claiming that the documentation was due for publication “imminently”, but maintained that “nevertheless it is right for me to go.”
However, Truss then resigned herself and, in a highly controversial move, the then new Prime Minister Sunak decided to re-appoint Braverman on 26 October 2022 - to the very role she had quit just a week prior. Both Labour and the Lib Dems raised “national security” concerns following the re-appointment, and demanded an investigation by the Cabinet Office.