Suella Braverman has been accused of emboldening far-right protesters after some clashed with police in London on Armistice Day, with calls growing for Rishi Sunak to sack her.
The Home Secretary has been under fire for stoking tensions by branding pro-Palestinian demonstrators “hate marchers” and accusing the police of bias for letting the march go ahead on the day commemorating the end of the First World War.
Pressure mounted on the Cabinet minister as the Metropolitan Police said officers had faced “aggression” from counter-protesters around Saturday’s service in Whitehall.
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said Mrs Braverman had encouraged them with her inflammatory rhetoric and urged her to resign.
The SNP leader tweeted: “The far right has been emboldened by the Home Secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the police on Armistice Day.
“The Home Secretary’s position is untenable. She must resign.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder.”
The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words. The police's job has been made much harder.
The Met have my full support to take action against anyone found spreading hate and breaking the law.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) November 11, 2023
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for “calm”, with a veiled swipe at Mrs Braverman for fuelling tensions.
She tweeted: “Everyone must reflect on the impact of their words and actions. It is the responsibility of all of us to bring people together over this weekend not divide and inflame.”
Mr Sunak has so far maintained confidence in his Home Secretary, even as the latest row came after some ministers this week distanced themselves from her claims homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”.
There has been speculation that the Prime Minister will carry out a ministerial reshuffle, which could see Mrs Braverman moved, but not before next week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda deportation policy championed by her.
Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP who has family in Gaza, laid blame for any trouble caused by far-right groups at Mr Sunak’s door.
She tweeted: “As the police in central London work to contain the far-right, and everyone starts to blame Suella Braverman, just remember who chose to not only give her the job but also chose not to sack her.
“Rishi Sunak is as, if not more, responsible for what happens 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.
Conservative former minister Brendan Clarke-Smith defended the Home Secretary, saying: “I’ve heard some daft takes, but to try and justify this appalling behaviour by blaming an op-ed in The Times, which simply stated the flaming obvious, is pathetic.”
While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter protestors who are in the area in significant numbers.
The counter protestors are not one cohesive group. There are different groups moving away…
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) November 11, 2023
Skirmishes broke out as police attempted to stop a crowd of people bearing St George’s flags from reaching the Cenotaph war memorial on Saturday morning, but the group pushed through, with some shouting “let’s have them” as officers hit out with batons.
The Met Police posted on X, formerly Twitter: “While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter-protesters who are in the area in significant numbers.”
Further clashes between people chanting “England ’til I die” and officers took place near Westminster underground station and in Chinatown.
Dozens of counter-protesters were arrested as hundreds of thousands of people took part in the pro-Palestinian march.
Mrs Braverman rowed back her language on the eve of Armistice Day, giving police her “full backing” at a meeting with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.
It came after her article in The Times, in which she claimed officers “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian protesters, was disowned by Downing Street and provoked fury among Tory MPs.