MPs have suggested Suella Braverman should be sacked as Home Secretary amid warnings she is “encouraging extremists on all sides” over her response to pro-Palestinian protests.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper led the criticism of Ms Braverman during an urgent question in the House of Commons focused on the operational independence of the Metropolitan Police.
The exchanges were prompted by Ms Braverman’s article in The Times in which she said aggressive right-wing protesters were met with a stern response by officers while “pro-Palestinian mobs” were “largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law”.
The SNP and opposition backbenchers questioned if Ms Braverman should be sacked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, while Labour former minister Sir Chris Bryant accused the Home Secretary of “inciting hatred”.
DUP MP Ian Paisley defended Ms Braverman and accused other MPs of “hand-wringing hypocrisy and pant-wetting” over “someone criticising the police correctly”.
Policing minister Chris Philp, replying for the Government, said it was “reasonable” for politicians to raise concerns and make sure the police were protecting communities.
Speaking in the Commons, Ms Cooper said Ms Braverman was “deliberately seeking to create division around Remembrance” after the minister doubled down on her characterisation of a protest planned for Armistice Day as a “hate” march.
Ms Cooper said: “She is encouraging extremists on all sides, attacking the police when she should be backing them. It is highly irresponsible and dangerous, and no other Home Secretary would ever have done this.”
Ms Cooper went on: “Does this Government still believe in the operational independence of the police, and how can it do so while this Home Secretary is in post and did the Prime Minister and Number 10 agree to the content of this article?
“Because either the Prime Minister has endorsed this or he’s too weak to sack her.”
Mr Philp said there had been a “spike” in Islamophobic offences and a “surge” in antisemitic offences, adding: “I’ve been contacted this morning by members of the Jewish community who are deeply uneasy about what this weekend will bring.”
Mr Philp went on: “And it is reasonable for politicians, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and others, I’m sure some on the other side of the House as well, to raise those concerns and make sure that the police are protecting those communities.”
He insisted that “the Government resolutely backs the question of operational independence” and in relation to the approval process of the Home Secretary’s article with Number 10, Mr Philp said: “I’m afraid I don’t have any visibility on that at all.”
For the SNP, Chris Stephens said: “A lot of discussion has focused on the Palestinian ceasefire march when the police are more concerned with counter-protests by the far right … and football hooligans. Will the Government also be looking to cancel the 10 Premier League games scheduled this weekend?
“Will it look to cancel the City of London’s Lord Mayor’s Parade which overlaps the two-minute silence?
“The ex-Met assistant commissioner said this morning that this is the end of operational independence in policing … saying it’s on the verge of behaving unconstitutionally.
“Does this not mean and represent that the Home Secretary is unfit for office and should be sacked today?”
Mr Philp said he did not agree with the suggestion that operational independence was in “any way compromised”.
Suella Braverman is a danger. Her article overnight imperils good policing, it undermines the operational independence of the police and it inflames an already difficult situation. It’s as if she wants to go round and arrest people herself for anything that upsets her.
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) November 9, 2023
Sir Chris, Labour MP for Rhondda, said: “The minister is absolutely right when he says there is no place for hate on our streets. Isn’t the truth of the matter though there is no place for hate in the Home Office either, and the problem with the present Home Secretary is that she’s the person who is inciting hatred in this country.”
Labour’s Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) said: “The truth is the Government is attempting to draw the police into taking political sides in a very contentious matter in the country.
“There are millions of people who want a ceasefire. Now that is a dangerous slippery slope which we’re on. Operational independence of the police to protect the right of assembly, the basic English right of liberty is being challenged by the Home Secretary.
“She is not fit to hold that post, is she?”
Mr Paisley (North Antrim) said MPs were right to criticise the Metropolitan Police for their handling of a 2021 vigil for murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard, adding on the current criticism: “The hand-wringing hypocrisy and the pant-wetting that we’re seeing over someone criticising the police correctly is amazing.”
Conservative former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said she was “deeply troubled” by the march planned for Saturday.
She acknowledged the police were in a “really difficult position” and that their powers were “constrained by law”, but speaking about the Jewish community, she said: “I have never known fear and anxiety as I have seen over the last few weeks.”