Suella Braverman has been accused of being “out of control”, as she continued her war of words with the Metropolitan Police after the commissioner resisted government pressure to ban this week’s pro-Palestinian march.
In an article for The Times newspaper, the Home Secretary once again described pro-Palestinian protesters as “hate marchers”.
And she went even further, adding: “I do not believe that these marches are merely a cry for help for Gaza.
“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.”
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This led one former Tory cabinet minister to message Sky’s Beth Rigby, saying: “This is wholly offensive and ignorant of where people in Northern Ireland stand on the issues of Israel and Gaza.
“It would be good to know what she knows about what NI people think about the current Israel-Palestine situation before she casts aspersions.
“It’s clear that the Home Secretary is only looking after her misguided aspirations for leader than responsible leadership as a Home Sec.”
In the article Ms Braverman also claimed a double standard exists within the Met.
“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?”
Calling for protests to be policed “even-handedly”, the home secretary also questioned why protests for Black Lives Matter were allowed to go ahead during the COVID pandemic, while “lockdown objectors were given no quarter by public order police”.
In words seeming to pile pressure onto commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, she concluded: “This weekend the public will expect to see an assertive and proactive approach to any displays of hate, breaches of conditions and general disorder.”
In response to Ms Braverman’s article, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, described her as “out of control”.
She wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Her article tonight is a highly irresponsible, dangerous attempt to undermine respect for police at a sensitive time, to rip up operational independence and to inflame community tensions.
“No other home secretary of any party would ever do this.”
And London Mayor Sadiq Khan posted: “The Home Sec’s article in The Times is inaccurate, inflammatory & irresponsible.
“At a time when we should be seeking to unite communities – she is dividing them. The Home Sec should support the police to keep everyone safe at this delicate time, not make their job harder.”
And the Liberal Democrats have accused her of “running a Conservative Party leadership campaign, not the Home Office”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded that a pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day will go ahead – but described the protest as “disrespectful”.
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Following a face-to-face meeting with Sir Mark, he said the chief of the Metropolitan Police would be held accountable for his decision to greenlight the demonstration.
He said in a statement: “Saturday’s planned protest is not just disrespectful but offends our heartfelt gratitude to the memory of those who gave so much so that we may live in freedom and peace today.
“But part of that freedom is the right to peacefully protest. And the test of that freedom is whether our commitment to it can survive the discomfort and frustration of those who seek to use it, even if we disagree with them. We will meet that test and remain true to our principles.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had accused Mr Sunak of “cowardice” for “picking a fight” with the police.
He tweeted: “Remembrance events must be respected. Full stop.
“But the person the PM needs to hold accountable is his home secretary. Picking a fight with the police instead of working with them is cowardice.”
Downing Street denied seeking to put pressure on the Met, which is operationally independent, and insisted the meeting was about “seeking assurances” that their approach is “robust”.
Tens of thousands have demonstrated in London in recent weeks over Palestinian deaths in the Israel-Hamas war – with 29 arrested during a fourth week of protests last Saturday, during which fireworks were thrown.
Organisers of this Saturday’s protest say it will be “well away” from the Cenotaph – going from Hyde Park, around a mile from the war memorial in Whitehall, to the US embassy – and won’t start until after the 11am silence.