U.K. Home Secretary Is Fired Days After Article Attacking Police

One of Britain’s most senior cabinet ministers, Suella Braverman, was fired on Monday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, several days after she wrote an incendiary newspaper article that accused the police of bias.

Critics had argued that Ms. Braverman, who as home secretary had been responsible for law enforcement, immigration and national security, had stirred tensions ahead of a huge, pro-Palestinian demonstration in London on Saturday during which the police clashed with far right counterprotesters.

Though the removal of Ms. Braverman from her job had seemed likely since her article was published last week, Mr. Sunak appears to have delayed making that change for several days in order to carry out a long awaited and wider shuffle of his cabinet.

Ms. Braverman had long been a divisive figure at the heart of the governing Conservative Party, whose provocative rhetoric won her support on the hard right while alienating more moderate colleagues.

She is widely viewed as a possible candidate to replace Mr. Sunak as party leader if he fails to win a looming general election, and her departure signals the deep challenges he confronts, as he grapples with a stubborn double-digit deficit in opinion polls, a stagnant economy and a restive party that senses its 13-year grip on power is slipping.

Her departure follows the publication of an extraordinary opinion article in The Times of London in which Ms. Braverman rebuked the city’s main police force for deciding not to ban a pro-Palestinian protest march that coincided with Armistice Day, when Britain commemorates those who fought in World War I and subsequent conflicts.

She also described the tens of thousands of people who have attended regular Saturday protests in London in support of Palestinians as “hate marchers” and “mobs,” despite the fact that the demonstrations have been mostly peaceful.

Downing Street said that it had not authorized the article, as would be customary, and it emerged that several changes requested by the prime minister’s office had not been made before publication.

On Saturday, critics, including the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, accused Ms. Braverman of encouraging the counterprotest during which some right-wingers broke through a police cordon and claimed that they were on the streets to defend a war memorial. The police said that around 145 people were arrested on Saturday, the vast majority of whom were counterprotesters, and nine officers were injured.

In her article Ms. Braverman claimed that the demonstrations were not “merely a cry for help for Gaza” but “an assertion of primacy by certain groups — particularly Islamists — of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland.”

That reference to Northern Ireland, making rhetorical use of sectarian tensions in a region where efforts to restore a power-sharing government have so far failed, also provoked anger.

Part of the pro-Palestinian demonstration in London on Saturday.Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

In the piece, Ms. Braverman accused the police of a “double standard” in the way they handled protests. “Right-wing and nationalist protesters who engage in aggression are rightly met with a stern response yet pro-Palestinian mobs displaying almost identical behavior are largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law,” she wrote.

Ms. Braverman had made it clear that she wanted the march on Saturday Nov. 11 to be banned in part because it would coincide with Armistice Day. Mr. Sunak had taken the same view but last Wednesday won assurances from the police that all possible steps would be taken to prevent disorder and issued a statement confirming the protest would go ahead, pledging to “remain true to our principles” of the right to peaceful protest.

The article by Ms. Braverman, published a few hours later, appeared to undermine his stance.

Ms. Braverman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party leadership last year, has long embraced hard-right tropes in her statements and interviews, describing migration as a “hurricane,” the arrival of asylum seekers on the British coast in small boats as an “invasion” and homelessness as a “lifestyle choice.” She recently suggested imposing restrictions on charities who offer tents to those living on the streets.

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