Grant Shapps failed to back Suella Braverman’s survival as Home Secretary for another week as she remained under fire for stoking tensions ahead of Armistice Day protests.
The Defence Secretary said “a week’s a long time in politics” when asked whether his Cabinet colleague will stay in her role until next weekend.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing intensifying calls to sack Mrs Braverman following scenes of far-right violence towards officers on Saturday resulting in dozens of arrests.
The Home Secretary has been accused of inflaming tensions after she branded pro-Palestinian protesters “hate marchers” and accused the police of bias for letting the rally go ahead on remembrance weekend.
Asked about Mrs Braverman’s political future, Mr Shapps told Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme: “As you know, and I know well, a week’s a long time in politics. I never make predictions about these things.”
Pressed on calls for her removal, he said: “The make-up of the Cabinet is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister.
“He will decide that in his own time.”
His lack of endorsement came after Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mrs Braverman cannot stay in her job.
She blamed the ugly scenes in London on Mrs Braverman’s “appalling and unprecedented attack” on the Metropolitan Police’s operational independence and impartiality.
“I don’t see how she can continue to do this job, she does not have the credibility or the authority to do the serious job of Home Secretary,” Ms Cooper said.
She added that Mr Sunak “needs to deal with this”, “because otherwise all that he shows is he is weak, he doesn’t care about policing and he doesn’t care about the security of our country”.
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf called for Mrs Braverman to be sacked and not be allowed to resign.
Speaking to journalists as he arrived at Remembrance Day commemorations in Edinburgh, he said some on the far right attacked the police as a result of her “fanning the flames of division”.
“I’m afraid that the Home Secretary’s position, in my view, is untenable.
“She should not even be allowed to resign, she should just be sacked by the Prime Minister because no Home Secretary should be fanning the flames of division – quite the opposite.”
Mr Sunak has so far maintained confidence in his Home Secretary, even after a week in which ministers also distanced themselves from her claims that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”.
There has been speculation the Prime Minister will carry out a ministerial reshuffle, which could see her moved, but not before Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda deportation policy which she has championed.
Her article in The Times, in which she claimed officers “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian “mobs”, was disowned by Downing Street and provoked fury among Tory MPs, with no Cabinet ministers publicly backing her.
Mr Shapps played down suggestions her comments had emboldened far-right protesters who caused trouble in London.
“Those people who were going to come and try and disrupt this weekend had already said they were going to do it.
“They were doing it in their own twisted way because they were protesting themselves against other marches.”
He suggested more arrests would have been made at the pro-Palestinian march if the police had not been “distracted” dealing with far-right violence.
Mrs Braverman has made no public comment on the disturbances or policing efforts.
In her first post on social media site X in six days on Sunday, she said she would be attending the Remembrance service at the Cenotaph, the scene of skirmishes a day earlier that some have blamed her for whipping up.
Mixed feelings about Remembrance period this year. Frustrated things clouded what should have been all about things like Veterans marching with Nuclear medals for the first time; or bereaved kids/widows who’s sacrifice hurts every day, but this one time a year march on their… pic.twitter.com/iJgjjHmOaJ
— Rt Hon Johnny Mercer (@JohnnyMercerUK) November 12, 2023
Veterans’ affairs minister Johnny Mercer tweeted that he was “frustrated” Remembrance events have been “clouded” by “culture wars”.
Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries said it was “almost impossible to believe” that Mrs Braverman’s opinion piece had not been approved by No 10.
It is understood that the article was published without all the alterations requested by Downing Street.
Ms Dorries told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “I absolutely do not believe that her article, which is at the root of all of this, went into The Times newspaper and was not approved by it, I just don’t believe that, so I think that’s a part of the briefing machine that goes out.”