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Suella Braverman's Charges Against London Police on Palestine March Are Shocking

Rishi Sunak has made clear that he didn’t approve of Braverman's comments. But nor has he publicly repudiated them.

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London’s police attract a lot of fiercely-expressed criticism. But it doesn’t usually come from the Home Secretary, the cabinet minister responsible for law and order.

Suella Braverman has caused shock and consternation by accusing the police of political double standards by being more indulgent to left-wing protests than those staged by the right.

It’s an astonishing charge. London’s police is not often accused of being too left-wing.

And the Home Secretary’s remarks appear to threaten the operational independence of the police as well as imperilling what many in Britain see as a basic right, to protest.

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What Exactly is the Row About?

The row is about a large pro-Palestine rally planned for central London on Saturday. Previous marches to demand a ceasefire and humanitarian help for the people of Gaza in the face of Israel’s invasion have attracted huge, and largely peaceful, crowds and won support particularly from those on the left of the political spectrum.

A handful among those protesting have held banners in support of the hardline Palestinian group, Hamas, which is proscribed in Britain as a terrorist group. And some have chanted demands for a Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’ – seen as a call for wiping out the state of Israel altogether.

That prompted Braverman to describe pro-Palestine protestors as ‘hate marchers’, even though many have made clear they are appalled by Hamas’s slaughter of hundreds of Israeli civilians which triggered the current conflict.

This coming weekend has high profile events to honour Britain’s war dead: Saturday is Armistice Day; the following day, Remembrance Sunday, sees ceremonial laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph, the war memorial, in central London. The government has argued it is inappropriate to have angry demonstrations and the possibility of public disorder on such a solemn weekend.

But the decision to request the banning of a protest march rests with the police and can only be made if there’s a serious risk of disorder. The head of London’s police asked the protest organisers to postpone their march; but he has said there’s no grounds for him to outlaw it.

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The Metropolitan Police Are Not Really Seen as a Stronghold of Liberal Values

Suella Braverman has now escalated the row, using what many regard as inflammatory language.

She’s accused the London police of playing ‘favourites’ with protestors: being indulgent to pro-Palestinian marchers and Black Lives Matter demonstrators, while clamping down much harder on right-wing causes such as COVID lockdown objectors.

This wasn’t simply a throwaway remark at the end of an interview. Braverman wrote an article for The Times explicitly to denounce the political bias of the Metropolitan Police.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has made clear he didn’t approve the Home Secretary’s comments. But nor has he publicly repudiated them.

Braverman is, alongside Sunak, one of the highest profile desi politicians in Britain. She was born Sue-Ellen Fernandes in London and is of both Goan and Tamil heritage. Her parents were brought up in Kenya and Mauritius. While of Christian and Hindu ancestry, Braverman is herself a Buddhist and when elected to Parliament she took the oath of allegiance on a book of Buddhist scripture. Her husband is Jewish.

For many Londoners, the suggestion that the police are more sympathetic to the political left will seem laughable. The Metropolitan Police has in recent years been embroiled in a series of scandals which have highlighted the persistence of sexism, racism, Islamophobia and homophobia in its ranks.

So they are not exactly seen as a stronghold of liberal values.

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So Why Has Braverman Made These Incendiary Comments?

Part of the reason is to try to assert more political control over London’s police, by far the biggest police force in the country. She is clearly furious that the Metropolitan Police ignored the government’s prompting and refused to halt Saturday’s protest.

Another is more nakedly political. Suella Braverman, an ardent Brexiteer, has become the standard bearer of the right-wing of the Conservative Party.

Her hostile comments about illegal immigrants, the homeless, pro-Palestine demonstrators and now the police seem designed to burnish her reputation as the right-wing politician who speaks out on the issues others don’t address.

If Rishi Sunak leads the Conservative Party to defeat in the elections expected in about a year’s time, Braverman believes she will be well placed to succeed him as leader of the Conservative Party.

And it seems increasingly likely that the Conservatives will lose power at the next election. They are a long way behind in the opinion polls. And just this week the former Conservative Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has warned that his party is drifting towards defeat.

While Braverman’s combative tone will be applauded by many in the Conservative Party rank-and-file, her remarks will also confirm the view of many that she is a hot-headed hardliner unsuitable for high office.

(Andrew Whitehead is a former BBC India correspondent and also reported on British politics for the BBC. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Israel-Palestine 

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