Ministers distance themselves from Braverman as PM pressured to sack her

Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen on Suella Braverman's future as home secretary with Rishi Sunak facing increasing pressure to sack her

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to sack Suella Braverman after she defied Downing Street by publishing an article accusing police of bias for allowing pro-Palestinian protests - something she has controversially described as "hate marches".

Her claim in the Times newspaper that some senior officers "play favourites" over how they police particular protests is just the latest inflammatory comment by the home secretary in recent days.

However, on Friday Ms Braverman gave police her “full backing” ahead of a pro-Palestinian march planned for Armistice Day.

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.

Her change of tune came after she prompted frustration and unease among Conservative MPs and sparked calls for the prime minister to remove her from her Cabinet role after she failed to get Number 10 to sign off the op-ed before it was published.

On Thursday night, Downing Street was still investigating the “details” on how the article, which also contained a widely-criticised comparison between “pro-Palestinian mobs” and marches in Northern Ireland, was sent for publication.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reacts to Suella Braverman's 'divisive' comments

It is understood the article was submitted to Downing Street, but did not get signed off as significant alterations were requested.

Speaking on Friday, a top Metropolitan police officer refused to talk about politics, but said the force was "operationally independent" from the government and that it was "here to keep people safe."

Labour mocked the prime minister as “spineless” and argued that the move by Mrs Braverman amounts to a breach of the ministerial code, as they and members of other parties called for her removal.

The code states “all major interviews and media appearances, both print and broadcast, should also be agreed with the No 10 Press Office”.

Even some Conservative MPs believe that Mrs Braverman, who is never shy about causing controversy, has this time overstepped the mark.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt distanced himself from the comments made by Mrs Braverman, saying "the words that she used are not words that I myself would have used."

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.

A Conservative former Cabinet minister also told PA news agency that Mr Sunak should consider dismissing her if he cannot resolve the situation as the row “undermines” the Tory party.

It remains to be seen if the prime minister will move against Mrs Braverman, who he appointed to the high-level post when he took over from Liz Truss late last year.

Former chancellor George Osborne used his Political Currency podcast to claim that Mr Sunak has “come very close” to sacking Mrs Braverman in the past.

It has long been speculated that Mr Sunak will want to carry out a major ministerial reshuffle ahead of the upcoming general election, expected next year.

More immediately, the Supreme Court will next week rule whether government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful.

There has been speculation the prime minister may want to wait for that decision before embarking on any reshuffle.

The row comes with only a day to go until tens of thousands of people take to the streets for the pro-Palestinian march.

No 10 said they were working “very closely” ahead of Saturday’s heavily-policed march, but chose not to repeat her widely-criticised language in a piece for The Times.

A source close to the home secretary said she and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police met on Friday 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 source said.“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."

What did Mrs Braverman say?

Mrs Braverman’s article had reflected her frustration with Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley, who has resisted pressure from senior Tories to ban the demonstration in the capital.

As well as claiming the police "largely ignored... pro-Palestinian mobs" Mrs Braverman also went on to compare the marches to the Troubles.

She wrote in the Times: "I do not believe that these marches are merely a cry for help for Gaza.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman argued Israel is ‘absolutely not’ in breach of international humanitarian law Credit: Justin Tallis/PA

“They are an assertion of primacy by certain groups — particularly Islamists — of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland. Also disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster are the reports that some of Saturday’s march group organisers have links to terrorist groups, including Hamas.”

Mrs Braverman claimed “there is a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters”.

She said: “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?

“I have spoken to serving and former police officers who have noted this double standard.

“Football fans are even more vocal about the tough way they are policed as compared to politically connected minority groups favoured by the left."

Saturday's Protest

On Friday the Metropolitan Police said it has used "every power it had" to police the pro-Palestinian protest planned for London on Saturday.

An exclusion zone will ban those on the march from Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade, the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance from areas where remembrance events are taking place.

Anyone believed to be part of, or associated with, the pro-Palestinian demonstration trying to assemble in Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade, the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance can be arrested.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: "Everyone has a right to feel safe... I can guarantee the cenotaph will be protected."

"We have a comprehensive barrier plan as well as condition to stop people getting to the Cenotaph."

When asked about the language and political reaction surrounding the weekend's protests he added: "We've been really clear we're operationally independent we're here to keep people safe, this is a difficult weekend for policing and a tense weekend but we keep everyone safe to the best of our ability."

Throughout Saturday and Sunday almost 2,000 officers from the Met and other UK forces will be on duty across central London.

The Cenotaph will have a dedicated 24 hour police presence which began on Thursday.

The force said it is aware of a counter protest which could take place alongside the pro-Palestinian march.

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