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Rishi Sunak Still Has Confidence In Suella Braverman But Future In Cabinet Hangs In The Balance

Suella Braverman has been home secretary since 2022 (Alamy)

6 min read

Suella Braverman’s fate as Home Secretary still hangs in the balance as a growing number of senior Tories are distancing themselves from her controversial comments on the policing of protests and homelessness.

The Home Secretary wrote an explosive article for The Times in which she doubled down on a previous description of a planned pro-Palestine march as being a "hate" march, and accused the Metropolitan Police of a "double standard" in how it responds to protests by different groups. 

Her comments sparked a fallout among Conservatives over whether the Prime Minister should remove her from one of the most important jobs in Cabinet.

Pressure is mounting on Downing Street as a pro-Palestine march looks set to go ahead in London on Remembrance Day this weekend, with added uncertainty over whether other counter-protest groups will gather in central London to "defend" monuments and Remembrance services. 

A No10 spokesperson said on Friday morning that the Prime Minister still had confidence in the Home Secretary, despite growing calls for Rishi Sunak to intervene.

“He has confidence in the Home Secretary,” they said. 

“Our collective focus working with the Home Office and other colleagues in government now is on ensuring that Remembrance events at the weekend are protected from disruption, and that veterans and those gathering to mark Remembrance Sunday and the Jewish community do not face unacceptable intimidation.”

They repeated that the op-ed was not agreed by Downing Street, and they are “looking into what happened”, but would not call this an “investigation”.

However, many senior Conservatives have distanced themselves from Braverman's remarks or outrightly criticised her. The Prime Minister’s patience is believed to be wearing increasingly thin with the Home Secretary, with discussions around her future looking set to continue into the weekend.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt told Sky News on Friday morning that he would not have used the same language that she had chosen to describe the work of the Met Police. 

“As many other Cabinet ministers have said, the words that she used are not words that I myself would have used,” he said.

“But I have a productive relationship with her as a colleague, and I've always given her the money that she needs to fund the police, bring down crime and to fund the immigration and asylum system.

“The Prime Minister has said that he has full confidence in her and I have nothing further to add.”

On Thursday, LBC's Andrew Marr asked Tory MP and chair of the justice committee Bob Neill whether he thought Braverman’s position as Home Secretary is now untenable.

“Yes, I think it is,” Neill replied.

“I think she's gone over the line… I'd hoped she might not have done, but it's part of a history of ill judgement and loose words. 

“And of all the jobs in government, Home Secretary is one of those where you have to be particularly careful and what concerns me is whether it is by accident that these loose words were used just before this highly sensitive demonstration, where it's very difficult to remove someone immediately. It is actually playing a matter of significant national concern to your own advantage.”

Earlier this week Braverman also made a contentious claim that homelessness is a "lifestyle choice", which triggered a widespread, furious backlash among Tory backbenchers. 

Justice Secretary Chalk, told Sky News earlier this week that he would take a “take a different approach”.

“There’s often a very significant context, which will be mental health issues, substance abuse problems, relationship breakdown, loss of a job and so on,” he said.

“And so I do think that that needs to be weighed in the balance.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho also refused to repeat Braverman’s remarks when pressed by journalists. 

However, a number of Conservative backbench MPs are still speaking out in support of the Home Secretary, including Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger, and Lee Anderson.

Cates told Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning that pro-Palestine protesters were “the ones stirring up tensions”.

“We've seen some fairly nasty pro-Palestinian activists, some of whom, not all of course, have glorified terrorism, preached anti-semitism, defaced our monuments,” she said.

“And yet, instead of talking about that and what that means for our country, we seem to be obsessed with which particular version of an article No10 cleared.

“The tens of thousands of people who are marching on our streets, some of whom are calling for the death of Jews and ripping down posters of Israeli hostages, they are the ones who are stirring up tensions.”

She insisted that the Home Secretary had been “absolutely right” to call out whether the protests were being policed properly.

Conservative MP Robert Courts told PoliticsHome that while he would not comment on whether Braverman should retain her job, he insisted the Remembrance services should be "sacrosanct" and wants the police to "seriously consider" what steps they might have to take.

"We need to deal with what is an extremely sensitive position this weekend with care," he said.

"The thing that I am overwhelmingly concerned about is that Remembrance is absolutely sacred, it is sacrosanct, it must be protected because it means an enormous amount to those who have served and to people who are proud of our country.

"So I want to see that protected and I want the police to very seriously consider all the steps that they take over the course of this weekend to make sure that that is protected."

He said he did not think it was "appropriate" for any group to hold "any kind of demonstration" on Remembrance Day.

"Clearly, people have a right to peaceful protest, but I think they've also got to use their judgement as to when it's appropriate. And I deplore any kind of radicalisation, be from the left or the right or any other colour.”

Pat McFadden, Labour's national campaign coordinator, wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister on Thursday that it would be a sign of weakness if the prime minister did not sack Braverman.

“To say that the article was not cleared and then do nothing about it would strip you of all authority over the Home Secretary and leave her free to continue to say and do whatever she likes with no fear of sanction from you," he wrote.

"This would be a display of weakness and an extraordinary situation in which to leave your government.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey also called on the prime minister to sack Braverman. 

Suella Braverman is not fit to hold the office of Home Secretary," he said.

"She divides communities with reckless abandon, playing a personal political game with no care for the consequences suffered by the people she is supposed to protect. She is the most dangerous and divisive Home Secretary of modern times. This country will be safer without her in post.

“What more will it take for the Prime Minister to do the right thing? It is time for us to move past her pathetic failings and for her to go. Rishi Sunak needs to find his backbone and sack her.”

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