Rishi Sunak is facing calls to sack Suella Braverman after she defied Downing Street by writing an article accusing police of bias over protests in support of Palestine.
The Home Secretary’s widely-criticised claim that there is a perception some senior officers “play favourites” was not signed off by No 10, the Prime Minister’s spokesman made clear on Thursday.
Downing Street was investigating how the article containing an inflammatory comparison between “pro-Palestinian mobs” and marches in Northern Ireland was still sent to the Times for publication.
Conservatives expressed unease over the article as Opposition figures urged Mr Sunak to sack Mrs Braverman, who claimed the protesters are “largely ignored” by officers “even when clearly breaking the law”.
Mrs Braverman had already called the demonstrations attended by thousands “hate marches” ahead of another rally in London coinciding with Armistice Day, despite Government objections.
It is understood that the article was submitted to Downing Street, but did not get signed off as significant alterations were requested. The piece was published nonetheless.
“The content was not agreed by No 10,” the Mr Sunak’s spokesman said. “The Prime Minister continues to believe that the police will operate without fear or favour.”
Britain deserves better than this endless Tory chaos.
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But he added that the Prime Minister still has full confidence in the Home Secretary.
Labour mocked the Prime Minister as “spineless” and argued that the move by Mrs Braverman amounts 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”.
Downing Street has declined to say whether her actions amount to a breach, promising instead to “update further” as it looks into the “details” of what happened.
Mrs Braverman’s office would not say if she gained clearance, with a source close to her saying: “We don’t comment on internal processes.”
Senior Tory Sir Bob Neill conceded that her position was “untenable”.
The Justice Committee Chair told LBC: “I think she’s gone over the line.
“It’s part of a history of ill judgement, and loose words. And of all the jobs in government, the Home Secretary is one of those where you have to be particularly careful.”
A Conservative former Cabinet minister also said Mr Sunak should consider dismissing her as Home Secretary if he cannot resolve the situation as the row “undermines” the Tory party.
The MP told the PA news agency: “Everybody says she’s trying to get fired or is testing her leadership prospects. The truth is she’s offending far more people than she’s impressing.
“If that’s her strategy, it’s not a very clever one. I think it’s undermining, frankly, it undermines our seriousness.”
Asked what the PM should do, the MP said: “He has to call her in and talk to her. If that doesn’t work, he should move her.”
Sir Keir Starmer and Opposition parties have sought to pile further pressure on Mr Sunak, who appointed Mrs Braverman to the high-level post when he took over from Liz Truss late last year.
“He’s got a Home Secretary who is out of control and he is too weak to do anything about it,” the Labour leader said.
Speaking during a visit to Wolverhampton, he said Mrs Braverman was “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.”
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey criticised Mr Sunak for bringing Mrs Braverman back into the Cabinet just days after she was forced out for breaching the ministerial code under Ms Truss.
“Rishi Sunak needs to find his backbone and sack her.”
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove declined to criticise Mrs Braverman.
“There is a lot weighing and, I know, I have seen up close, Suella working incredibly hard, and also incredibly constructively, with the police in order to deal with these challenges.
“Suella, like me and like many others, is deeply concerned about what may happen if a march goes ahead on Armistice Day,” he told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast.
Rejecting Mrs Braverman’s claims, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said “police forces are focused on upholding the law without fear or favour”.
In the Commons, Home Office minister Chris Philp suggested it was “reasonable” for politicians to raise concerns and make sure the police are protecting communities.
Mrs Braverman was not in the chamber because she was “with a close family member who is having a hospital operation this morning”, he said.
The row is the latest in a long line featuring Mrs Braverman, with Mr Sunak and multiple ministers this week refusing to support her claims some people were homeless as a “lifestyle choice”.
Writing in The Times, she argued “there is a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters”.
“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,” she said.
Mrs Braverman also prompted anger and confusion among some in Northern Ireland, after she compared the pro-Palestinian demonstrations to unspecified marches in the region.
She did not say whether she was referring to unionist or republican demonstrations, but said “reports that some of Saturday’s march group organisers have links to terrorist groups, including Hamas” were “disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster”.
Mrs Braverman’s article reflected her frustration with Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley, who has resisted pressure from senior Tories to ban Saturday’s march in London, saying the law would only allow him to do so in “extreme cases”.
Mr Sunak on Wednesday hauled in Sir Mark for an emergency meeting about the march and said he would hold the Scotland Yard boss “accountable” if there was trouble.
The meeting had appeared to ease some of the tension between the Government and the Met, before Mrs Braverman’s broadside.