Downing Street has disowned the Suella Braverman article in the Times. At the No 10 lobby briefing, which has just ended, the PM’s spokesperson said the article was “not cleared by No 10”.
This confirms the Telegraph story published earlier (see 11.16am), but it is worth stressing that it is unusual for No 10 to admit something like this. The normal instinct in Downing Street, under any administration, is to play down splits between the PM and a cabinet colleague, and journalists arriving at the lobby briefing this morning were probably expecting the spokesperson to dodge questions about whether the article had No 10 approval. Downing Street routinely dodges questions like this by saying that it does not comment on process.
But this morning, in response to the first question on this, the spokesperson said the article was not agreed.
The spokesperson would not go further. He would not say whether No 10 did not see the article in the first place or, as the Telegraph reports, No 10 requested changes which were ignored.
Asked if the PM had confidence in Braverman, the spokesperson said yes.
But the spokesperson also said that No 10 was still trying to establish exactly what happened, and that there might be a further “update”. This suggests that Braverman’s position is increasingly tenuous.
And the spokesperson also dodged questions about whether Braverman might be investigated for breaching the ministerial code. The code says:
In order to ensure the effective coordination of cabinet business, the policy content and timing of all major announcements, speeches, press releases and new policy initiatives should be cleared in draft with the No 10 Press and Private Offices at least 24 hours in advance. All major interviews and media appearances, both print and broadcast, should also be agreed with the No 10 press office.
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No 10 ‘did not sign off on final version of Braverman article’, report claims
What Braverman says in her Times article – and why it is so controversial
DUP MP Ian Paisley defends Braverman, accusing her critics of ‘hand-wringing hypocrisy’
Labour says Braverman has lost support of her party after only two Tory backbenchers defend her in Commons
Policing minister Chris Philp tells MPs he does not know if No 10 signed off Braverman’s article
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Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary who has just published a much-ridiculed book claiming that a shadowy Tory cabal called the “movement” was to blame for bringing down Boris Johnson, says the same network will also stop Suella Braverman ever becoming Tory leader.
If Rishi sacks Suella, she becomes a martyr for those on the right of the party.
The battle now is, who becomes leader of the opposition – who will lead whatever and whoever is left.
The people who lead the Conservative Party within No10 have been grooming Kemi for years. She’s very close to Dougie Smith and Munira. Cummings and Gove.
They won’t allow Suella to succeed. She will never get there.
Here are four Westminster journalists on the Suella Braverman situation.
From ITV’s Anushka Asthana
From HuffPost’s Kevin Schofield
From Politico’s Eleni Courea
From the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman
Labour is challenging Rishi Sunak to confirm that Suella Braverman, the home secretary, will face punishment for breaking the ministerial code. The code says ministerial media interventions need approval from No 10, but Downing Street has said it did not clear the article. (See 11.57am.)
Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, issued the challenge in an open letter to the PM.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson has confirmed that the Home Secretary’s article was not cleared by No 10.
Article 8.2 of the Ministerial code says all such interventions have to be cleared.
Given it wasn’t cleared, what will he do now? My letter to the PM is below.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign says Suella Braverman’s comments in her Times article show she is unfit for office. In a statement the PSC director, Ben Jamal, said:
The home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments are further evidence of her unfitness for office.
For weeks she has sought to delegitimise the call for a ceasefire in Gaza and the broad support for the rights of the Palestinian people by defaming those marching for peace as “hateful” and terrorist sympathisers. She has lied about the intentions of the 11 November march, suggesting it was intended to head to Whitehall to disrupt Remembrance Day commemorations, knowing full well that the route of the march was taking it away from central London.
Now she is seeking to pressure the police to ignore their responsibilities to act within the law and is threatening the right to peaceful protest.
Rishi Sunak bears responsibility for her being in office and for his own irresponsible remarks which have added to a climate of division and greenlit far-right activists seeking to disrupt people’s right to protest.
Hundreds of thousands of people will ignore these efforts at intimidation and march for peace and justice on 11 November.
As Ben Riley-Smith from the Telegraph points out, two Conservative party deputy chairs can’t agree on Suella Braverman. One of them, Nickie Aiken, says questioning the operational independence of the police is “very dangerous”, while the other, Lee Anderson, says Braverman was just saying “what most people are thinking”.
This is what Nickie Aiken, the MP for the central London constituency which includes the Cenotaph, told the Guardian:
The police should never be involved in politics and politicians should never get involved in policing operations. The police must police without fear or favour and it is a very dangerous precedent to state otherwise.
This protest should not be stopped unless there is credible intelligence that the police decide means it needs to be stopped. It has to be the police’s choice. These protests should not be stopped by political whim.
Aubrey Allegretti at the Times says Tory MPs are becoming “increasingly incensed” by what one is calling “Suellagate”.
Priti Patel, the former home secretary, told the Covid inquiry that at one point during the pandemic her department believed that the restrictions on outside gatherings were unenforceable.
She was responding to a question from Hugo Keith KC, counsel for the inquiry, who presented a WhatsApp message from Lord Frost, who at the time was a Brexit minister. Frost said the rules on outside gatherings were “close to unenforceable”.
Asked if there was also a view within the Home Office that the rules were “practically unenforceable”, Patel said: “Within the Home Office, yes.”
She said this was illustrated in particular by what happened when the police tried to break up a vigil on Clapham Common following the murder of Sarah Everard. Patel said she was dismayed by the way the police handled the incident.
Michael Matheson, the Scottish health secretary, has refused to answer reporters’ questions on how he ran up an £11,000 mobile bill while he was on a week’s holiday, but insisted he had no idea his usage would be so costly. (See 12.45pm.)
Challenged by reporters after first ministers’ questions, Matheson said the blame lay with parliament’s mobile providers but he refused to answer questions on what he had watched on the iPad or whether other family members used it. He said:
It’s been explained that it’s been caused by an outdated sim card that was in an iPad that I had for constituency purposes, it was a parliamentary iPad.
It hadn’t been replaced, I wasn’t aware that it hadn’t been replaced and the cost is as a result of that. And as the parliament has also stated very clearly, the network provider didn’t provide any information around the costs that had been incurred as well.
So, it was something that was unknown to me as well, and as the parliament have also confirmed, the parliamentary equipment was used for constituency and parliamentary purposes.
A spokesperson for Humza Yousaf, the first minister, confirmed later to reporters he (the spokesperson) had spoken to Matheson several times about it on Wednesday but had not asked him why the bill was so large or what he had watched.
Since the presiding officer had been asked to investigate and it was a parliamentary device, this was solely a matter for the Holyrood authorities, he said.
Back at the Covid inquiry Hugo Keith KC, counsel for the inquiry, presented a memo from Boris Johnson, written in August 2020, in which he said the “overriding message” from a forthcoming announcement should be about “tougher enforcement and bigger fines”. Keith referred to the “crushing irony of this observation”.
GB News’ Christopher Hope says government whips are contacting Tory MPs to ask what they think about Suella Braverman’s Times article.
At the Covid inquiry Priti Patel, the former home secretary, is being asked about the enforcement of coronavirus regulations. She said she spent a lot of time reminding colleagues of the “operational independence” of the police. She also said that politicians were “not there to dictate directly to the police as to when to arrest people, enforce the law”.
She did not directly refer to Suella Braverman, but she did not need to.
Although Patel and Braverman are both rightwing Brexiters, they are not allies, and Patel does not seem to be a big fan of her successor.
At the Covid inquiry Hugo Keith KC asks why regulations were introduced at such short notice. (See 2.03pm.)
Q: The contents of regulations changed over time. But the process was flawed throughout.
Priti Patel says it was the Department of Health and Social Care that drafted the regulations.
Q: You were “an important beast in the jungle”. Didn’t you tell DHSC that they needed to give the police more time to look at the rules they would have to enforce?
“We did,” says Patel. She says the Home Office translated the regulations into guidance for the police. But the process was “suboptimal at every single level”, she says.
In future, there should be a “totally different system”, she says.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2023/nov/09/labour-suella-braverman-met-police-protest-uk-politics-latest Downing Street disowns Braverman’s anti-Met police article, saying it ‘was not cleared by No 10’ – UK politics live | Politics