An education minister has refused to say whether prime minister has confidence in Home Secretary Suella Braverman following her controversial comments about the Metropolitan Police’s staffing of Armistice Day.
Robert Halfon was asked repeatedly if Rishi Sunak had confidence in his home secretary by Sky News, but was unable to answer.
Instead, he said it was the prime minister’s focus to ensure “remembrance services go ahead peacefully”.
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On three occasions, he refused to confirm if Mr Sunak backed his home secretary.
Asked about the article published in The Times on Wednesday evening – which Downing Street did not clear – Mr Halfon said there was an internal investigation into how it made it into print without sign-off from the prime minister’s team.
Yesterday morning, Downing Street claimed it had full confidence in the home secretary – although she has come under considerable criticism from within her party since.
In her article in The Times, Ms Braverman likened pro-Palestine demonstrations to marches seen in Northern Ireland, and accused the Met of holding “double standards” and being more lenient to left-wing protests.
Mr Halfon’s first response to being asked if Mr Sunak had confidence in Ms Braverman was to say: “Look, the prime minister’s focus is ensuring that the remembrance services go ahead peacefully.
“That’s why he’s met with the Metropolitan Police commissioner… Mark Rowley has assured the prime minister that the protests will be peaceful, that the remembrance services will go ahead safely and securely, and that has to be the priority.”
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Image: Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman Mr Sunak had wanted the marches called off, but following a meeting on Wednesday with Sir Mark Rowley agreed they could go ahead.
If the Met feels it cannot staff the demonstrations properly, it can apply to the home secretary who can then ban them from taking place.
Some parts of the Conservative Party are being very vocal in their support of Ms Braverman, including Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson.
He appeared to join in her criticism of the Met, posting on social media that the home secretary had not “took the knee on Whitehall while BLM riot”.
Mr Anderson added that it was Labour MPs who “want her sacked” that did this, but the Met also came under considerable criticism at the time for kneeling during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
He said: “Suella is guilty.
“Guilty of saying what most of us are thinking and saying. Thank goodness we have a home secretary who refuses to be cancelled.
“She is using everyday language used by everyday people. Labour MPs would know this if they got out more.”
Darren Jones, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News that Ms Braverman was “weaponising” the issue for her “own personal ambitions”.
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Responding to Mr Anderson’s tweet, Mr Jones said the Conservative Party spokesman was claiming the public would be happy for politicians to decide on an ideological basis “what issue can be protested and what issue can’t be protested”.
I’m sorry, that’s not the way that our democracy works,” he added.
Mr Jones said the demonstrations should go ahead, but should “not disrupt” remembrance services.