Sunak under pressure to sack Suella Braverman over newspaper article

British home secretary defies prime minister by publishing controversial article attacking Met police

Britain’s home secretary has defied Rishi Sunak by publishing a controversial article attacking the police’s handling of protests without gaining clearance from Downing Street, the prime minister’s spokesperson has confirmed.

Mr Sunak is facing pressure from Tory MPs to sack Suella Braverman following concerns she has breached the ministerial code.

Ms Braverman has provoked a storm of criticism after she accused the Metropolitan police of exhibiting a “double standard” in the way it treats demonstrations, notably a pro-Palestinian march planned for this weekend.

She claimed in the UK Times newspaper that senior police officers “play favourites” when it comes to protesters, taking a tougher stance with right-wing demonstrations than those associated with left-leaning causes.


The final version of the article, which has elicited a savage backlash from MPs in her own party, as well as Labour and the Lib Dems, did not take into account edits requested by Downing Street, according to party insiders.

The piece “was not cleared by Number 10″, the prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed on Thursday, adding: “We are looking into the details of what happened in this specific incident and will update when appropriate.”

Mr Sunak’s spokesperson insisted the prime minister retained full confidence in Ms Braverman, even though she appeared to have breached the ministerial code, which holds that the “policy content and timing” of all speeches, press releases and initiatives should be cleared with Number 10 at least 24 hours in advance.

Sanctions imposed for breaching the code range from giving an apology to being sacked.

A government insider said the requested edits were “not minor”, although a right-wing Tory insider supportive of Ms Braverman claimed they were “not material” to the substance of the piece and insisted her stance was in line with the views of the British public, citing a poll released on Thursday.

The YouGov survey for Sky News showed that 50 per cent of Britons thought the pro-Palestinian march planned for Armistice Day this Saturday should be banned, while only 34 per cent thought it should be allowed to go ahead.

Tory MPs warned on Thursday that Ms Braverman’s actions undermined Mr Sunak’s authority and heaped pressure on him to fire her.

“That is absolutely a sackable offence. It’s putting two fingers up to the prime minister,” said a senior Conservative MP, adding: “I assume she’s trying to get sacked and I hope she succeeds.”

Conservative backbenchers also accused Ms Braverman of stoking tensions at the protests. “Suppose something terrible happens over the weekend – there’s serious violence at the march – there’s a case to be made that she, as home secretary, has contributed to that,” said one.

A former minister said: “A very large majority of us are very upset about her actions.”

Her comments, the latest in a line of highly controversial statements, were condemned by Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, who said Ms Braverman was “out of control”, while some Tory MPs believed the minister was taking hardline positions to bolster her position in a future Conservative leadership contest.

One minister said: “She is clumsy with language and misrepresents complexity to achieve what she thinks is a headline to generate support with a narrow cadre of ignorant people.”

Ms Braverman’s article reflected her frustration with Sir Mark Rowley, Met police commissioner, who has refused to bow to political pressure to ban the proposed pro-Palestinian march on Saturday.

Sir Mark who met the prime minister on Wednesday, has argued there are no legal grounds to ban the march. Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman claim it is disrespectful because it will take place on Armistice Day.

“Unfortunately, there is a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters,” Ms Braverman wrote.

“During Covid, why was it that lockdown objectors were given no quarter by public order police yet Black Lives Matters [sic] demonstrators were enabled, allowed to break rules and even greeted with officers taking the knee?

“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.”

Mr Braverman also compared what she called “hate marchers” participating in weekly pro-Palestinian protests to sectarian groups that stage marches in Northern Ireland.

Asked about those comments, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was not sure what had been intended by them. “I think it’s really important that those of us in other parts of the world don’t make [the Israel-Hamas conflict] about us. People create parallels, and there are some parallels with conflicts in other parts of the world, but this war is unique. If we’ve learned anything in Ireland, it is that even after hundreds of years of conflict, peace is possible, partnership is possible.”

British government ministers routinely refuse to echo words used by Ms Braverman, who has talked about mass migration being a “hurricane” and described people sleeping rough on the streets as making a “lifestyle choice”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023