July 16, 2024
Stephen Castle

Nov. 13, 2023, 5:41 a.m. ET

Nov. 13, 2023, 5:41 a.m. ET

A pro-Palestinian demonstration in London on Saturday.Credit…Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press

Suella Braverman, who was fired from her post as Britain’s home secretary on Monday, 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.

Her firing on Monday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak 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 other conflicts.

Ms. Braverman, who as home secretary had been responsible for law enforcement, immigration and national security, 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, most of whom were counterprotesters, and that nine officers had been 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.

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 to be banned in part because it coincided with Armistice Day. Mr. Sunak had taken the same view, but he was given assurances from the police on Wednesday that all possible steps would be taken to prevent disorder, and he 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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