Braverman gives police ‘full backing’ after widely-criticised claim of bias

Braverman gives police ‘full backing’ after widely-criticised claim of bias

Suella Braverman gave police her “full backing” ahead of a pro-Palestinian march planned for Armistice Day, after her widely-criticised allegations of bias were disowned by Downing Street.

The Home Secretary expressed her support for the Metropolitan Police at a meeting with Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on Friday, a source close to her said.

Mrs Braverman’s change of tune came after her claim that officers “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian protesters prompted growing frustration and concern among Tory MPs and sparked calls for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to sack her.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley said the law would only allow him to ban a march in ‘extreme cases’ (James Manning/PA)

Mr Sunak continued to express his confidence in her, but No 10 declined to say whether they had spoken since her inflammatory unauthorised article in The Times.

No 10 said they were working “very closely” ahead of Saturday’s heavily-policed march, but chose not to repeat her widely-condemned language.

The source close to Mrs Braverman said: “The Home Secretary and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police met this afternoon to discuss the policing of demonstrations to be held tomorrow, on Armistice Day.

“The Commissioner outlined plans to continue working to maintain public order, ensure compliance with the law and maintain the safety of participants, police officers and the general public.

“The Home Secretary emphasised her full backing for the police in what will be a complex and challenging situation and expressed confidence that any criminality will be dealt with robustly.”

In her opinion piece, Mrs Braverman had written that “pro-Palestinian mobs” are “largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law”, while aggressive right-wing protesters are met with a stern response by officers, whom she accused of “double standards”.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt distanced himself from her comments, signalling Cabinet unease by telling reporters “the words that she used are not words that I myself would have used”.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said the Prime Minister “has confidence” in Mrs Braverman, but did not rule out a Cabinet reshuffle.

No 10 was still internally investigating the “details” about how the article – which contained a comparison between “pro-Palestinian mobs” and marches in Northern Ireland – was sent for publication. Mr Sunak has not referred the matter to ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus.

It is understood that the article was submitted to No 10 but did not get signed off as significant alterations were requested. The piece was published nonetheless.

The Prime Minister will need to decide whether the Home Secretary’s actions breached the ministerial code and, if so, whether he should sack her.

There has been speculation that Mr Sunak 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.

Ms Braverman’s expression of support for the Met appeared to be an effort to make amends.

Her article in The Times reflected her frustration with Met chief Sir Mark, who has resisted pressure from senior Tories to ban the demonstration in the capital calling for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

In his own statement on Friday, Mr Sunak said Remembrance weekend should be a “moment of unity” and protests will only be allowed far from remembrance events, with an exclusion zone around the Cenotaph.

The Home Secretary’s actions have added to tension around the march planned for Saturday by pro-Palestinian groups, and the risk of counter-protests, particularly around the Cenotaph, even though the demonstration is not intended to go near the Whitehall monument.

Scotland Yard will deploy nearly 2,000 officers across central London in a major policing operation over the weekend, while organisers of the protest anticipated more than 500,000 people would join it.

The Police Federation said it was “unacceptable” for Ms Braverman “to publicly attempt to tamper with the operational independence of policing”.

“Policing must be free of politics,” Steve Hartshorn, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank and file officers, said.

“Policing does not comment on political manoeuvrings, and we expect to be able to carry out our duties without political interference.”

A former Home Office permanent secretary said he did not understand how Mr Sunak could continue to have confidence in Ms Braverman.

Sir David Normington told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “She’s tried to interfere with the operational independence of the police. She’s accused them of partiality in the way they police demonstrations. She’s used inflammatory language. She’s even made some absolutely crass comments and comparisons about Northern Ireland.

“That’s at least four reasons why she’s unsuitable to be Home Secretary.”