Suella Braverman ‘demeans her office by whipping up divisions’, Keir Starmer warns

Sir Keir Starmer has accused Suella Braverman of “whipping up division” and “sowing the seeds of hatred and distrust” ahead of Armistice Day commemorations that saw far-right thugs clash with police.

The Labour leader accused Ms Braverman of “demeaning the office” of home secretary by accusing police of bias for allowing the pro-Palestine march through London to go ahead, and piled fresh pressure on Rishi Sunak to sack her.

He joined a slew of senior Tories, as well as London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf who blamed Ms Braverman for stoking tensions that led to far-right protesters target police.

A mass rally of around 300,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators in London passed off without major incident while more than 100 far-right thugs who turned up to confront them were detained by police after a series of violent skirmishes.

Ms Braverman was accused of inciting the violence by criticising police for refusing to ban the pro-Palestine march.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Keir said Ms Braverman had “set her face against the values Britain fought for”. He accused some pro-Palestinian demonstrators of “glorifying the terrorists of Hamas or calling for the destruction of Israel”, but said blanket calls for the march to be cancelled were “wrong”.

“The fact those calls have come from the highest levels of government should trouble everyone, regardless of whether you agree with their cause or not,” he said.

Sir Keir added: “The home secretary and the prime minister’s treatment of the police and protesters alike this week – coming just a few days after she shamefully described homelessness as “a lifestyle choice” – betray a total lack of respect for this country’s values and its principles.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak i sunder mounting pressure to sack Suella Braverman (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak i sunder mounting pressure to sack Suella Braverman (PA Wire)

“Few people in public life have done more recently to whip up division, set the British people against one another and sow the seeds of hatred and distrust than Suella Braverman. In doing so, she demeans her office.

“She also sets her face against the very values that Britain has fought for: values that the rest of the country will pay tribute to this weekend.”

It came as Tory grandee Dominic Grieve repeated his call for Ms Braverman to quit.

The former attorney general told Sky News she made “community cohesion and community relationships more difficult”.

And Mr Grieve said the home secretary showed she was “incapable of understanding her duty” to maintain the right to demonstrate under the rule of law. “She should resign,” he added.

Mr Khan said it was “disturbing” to see the violence towards police and if the prime minister does not sack Ms Braverman, “he’s too weak or agrees with her”.

“Sadly, these scenes were predictable after a week of efforts from some to stoke tension,” Mr Khan wrote in the Sunday Mirror.

“They were a direct result of the home secretary’s words and behaviour.”

Keir Starmer said Braverman’s comments about police undermined her office (PA)
Keir Starmer said Braverman’s comments about police undermined her office (PA)

“If Suella Braverman had any honour she would resign – and if not, Rishi Sunak should sack her.”

Nine officers were injured as they prevented a crowd storming the Cenotaph with Met Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist calling their “extreme violence” towards the police “extraordinary and deeply concerning”.

“A week of intense debate about protest and policing” helped “increase community tensions”, he said.

Mr Sunak has so far maintained confidence in his home secretary, even after a week in which ministers distanced themselves from her claims that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”.

There has been speculation the prime minister will carry out a ministerial reshuffle, which could see her moved, but not before next week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda deportation policy which she has championed.

Her incendiary language on “pro-Palestinian mobs” has angered many, including within the Tory party, with demands for her to go increasing.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Suella Braverman was warned repeatedly of the dangers of inflaming tensions and undermining the police.

“A home secretary that doesn’t take seriously the security of our streets is only allowed to remain in a government that has lost all sense of governing. Britain is better than Rishi Sunak and his cabinet.”

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf earlier called for Mrs Braverman to resign.

Braverman has been blame dfor inciting violence at pro-Palestine march counter protests (PA)
Braverman has been blame dfor inciting violence at pro-Palestine march counter protests (PA)

The SNP leader tweeted: “The far right has been emboldened by the home secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the police on Armistice Day.

“The home secretary’s position is untenable. She must resign.”

Hope Not Hate echoed the demand, with the campaign group’s chief executive Nick Lowles saying Ms Braverman has “inflamed tensions and, as we have seen today, whipped up the far right into a violent frenzy. She’s got to go”.

But Ms Braverman has supporters on the right of the party and any move against her by Mr Sunak could deepen divisions within Tory ranks.

Conservative former minister Brendan Clarke-Smith defended the home secretary, saying: “I’ve heard some daft takes, but to try and justify this appalling behaviour by blaming an op-ed in The Times, which simply stated the flaming obvious, is pathetic.”

Tory backbencher Danny Kruger said: “You know what, with the benefit of hindsight, maybe it would have been best if the march today hadn’t been allowed to go ahead.”

Ms Braverman rowed back her language on the eve of Armistice Day, giving police her “full backing” at a meeting with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.

It came after her article in The Times, in which she claimed officers “play favourites” towards pro-Palestinian protesters, was disowned by Downing Street and provoked fury among Tory MPs.