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  • Niska Cumming-Bruce

Suella Braverman, home secretary or far-right provocateur?

BY NISKA CUMMING-BRUCE

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s remarks on the pro-Palestine march have cost her a powerful post in the cabinet and the Tory Party any semblance of unity. By inciting far-right groups to violence has instead sown division in her party and the country.


Over 300,000 pro-Palestine protesters gathered in London around midday on the 11th of November, marching peacefully for a ceasefire in Gaza. In response, far-right counter-protesters attempted to disrupt their demonstrations, confronting police officers across London. The 145 people arrested by police were nearly all counter-protesters.


Most of the counter-protesters were hooligans and far-right groups, particularly members associated with the English Defence League (EDL), a notorious, far-right, Islamophobic organisation. The founder of the EDL, Tommy Robinson, left the protest not long before the violence broke out. In the city-wide skirmishes with police that followed, nine police officers were injured.


The former home secretary arguably emboldened these violent actions, on the verge of being complicit. Some of the counter-protesters explicitly said they were there because of former Home Secretary; others felt called upon to “defend” the Cenotaph against those she had branded as “Islamists.”


In an article published in the Times of London prior to the protest, Braverman condemned pro-Palestine demonstration unequivocally. She compared the behaviour of “pro-Palestinian mobs” to marches in Northern Ireland. Moreover, she denounced the Gaza protest as a “hate march” and an expression of “thuggish intimidation and extremism,” a claim that is not supported by the Metropolitan police.


Organisers of the pro-Palestinian march drew criticism for staging it on Armistice Day, an event dedicated to honouring the soldiers who died in two World Wars, but also honouring peace. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it “provocative and disrespectful.” But members of the Western Front Association, which organises the commemoration of Armistice Day, voiced their support of the march. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which arranges Gaza protests, scheduled its start well after the nation’s two minutes of silence. The PSC also coordinated with the police on potential security concerns. The Met concluded their demonstrations were not a threat to public safety and should be allowed to take place.


Braverman’s extraordinary response was to launch an attack against the Met, accusing them of “playing favourites.” She likened the Gaza demonstrators’ behaviour to that of “right-wing and nationalist protesters” but said the former would get better treatment from the authorities. Left-leaning protesters in general, she claimed, are likelier to be let off lightly.


To many, even within her party, Braverman’s challenge to the authority of the police, was irresponsible and a failure to fulfil her duty as home secretary, which is to uphold public security. Her careless remarks made a peaceful situation, which the police would have had under control, more dangerous. Even in her comments after the violence, she acknowledged the wrong-doing of the counter-protesters but placed blame equally on both sides. She posted on X: “The sick, inflammatory and, in some cases, clearly criminal chants, placards and paraphernalia openly on display at the march mark a new low.”


Counter-protesters followed her lead. In Chinatown, they yelled at the police “You’re not English anymore.” In Whitehall, a group was shouting Islamophobic obscenities and the slogan “English till I die.” An us-versus-them mentality, that the former Home Secretary has notoriously promoted, especially towards immigrants.


Braverman’s incendiary comments on the Palestine march is yet another instance of her embarrassing and dividing her party. She has been a continuous source of controversy for Sunak’s government, increasingly so. In the weeks before she was fired, she described homelessness as a “lifestyle choice,” particularly adopted by people “from abroad.” Her infamous policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda violated UK and international law. She called on the government to leave the European Convention on Human Rights to pass the legislation. She even suggested the Human Right Acts should be called the “Criminal Rights Act.” The Supreme Court has recently ruled the Rwanda policy “unlawful.”


This time though, Braverman has taken her fight to the prime minister. Her article in the Times of London was not approved by No. 10, flouting ministerial code and challenging Sunak’s authority. In a spiteful open-letter to Sunak after her dismissal, she accused him of betraying her and the British people.


Few doubt she will stop here – her ambition to lead the party is no secret. Openly rebuking Sunak looks like a calculated bid for the support of the far right to achieve it.


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