SUELLA BRAVERMAN has been sacked.
For all the Westminster gossip about David Cameron’s return to the front bench, Braverman’s removal is the key takeaway from the reshuffle, and it is a victory.
A victory for democracy, and the mass movement for peace. A defeat for the hardest-right wing of the Tory Party, and their open flirtation with fascist violence.
It is the extraordinary outpouring of solidarity with the people of Palestine that has framed British politics in recent weeks, making support for or opposition to an immediate ceasefire the key dividing line in the country — and even if it’s more a dividing line between the public and politicians than one at Westminster, the strength of the movement has generated the biggest political revolt in Labour since Keir Starmer took over.
But it is Braverman who decided to define government by the drive to ban the movement. Her misrepresentation of hundreds of thousands of people moved to demonstrate by the horrific daily news from Gaza as “hate marchers” has backfired, only swelling the numbers.
The far-right thugs who assaulted police at the Cenotaph were aptly dubbed “Braverman’s bovver boys” by National Education Union general secretary Daniel Kebede: when a minister in the same government, James Heappey, can only bring himself to say the fascist mobilisation was not “entirely” Braverman’s fault, we know that her role in whipping up that offensive explosion of hate is universally understood.
Here too, the deposed home secretary’s strategy backfired. Not because it resulted in violence on the streets, which she clearly anticipated.
But because the stark difference between the intoxicated, brawling skinheads claiming to be present to “defend” the Cenotaph and the gigantic, peaceful demonstration for a ceasefire marching from Hyde Park to the US embassy was in plain sight.
Rishi Sunak’s feeble effort to conflate a couple of arrests of pro-Palestine activists, which did not even take place on the main demo, with the 92 arrests of far-right hooligans making a concerted effort to break through police lines, fell flat: Braverman’s brazen attempt to double down, taking no responsibility for the hate she unleashed and accusing peace marchers of “polluting” London, only underlined her isolation.
So, a victory: but a very qualified one. We must not be complacent about the continuing menace posed by Tory legitimisation of the far right.
Saturday’s was a significant mobilisation. It may have been tiny compared to the vast peace march, but a thousand fascists are no joke. Public opinion is appalled, but as figures like former German left MP Ulla Jelpke have long warned, fascism should never be viewed simply or even mainly as an electoral danger.
These people are violent, as we’ve just seen: and when they gather in numbers they rarely confine their attacks to police officers. There has been a 600 per cent increase in Islamophobic hate crimes in Britain since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7: much of this is verbal abuse, but physical attacks are also on the rise. The anti-racist movement will have its work cut out to meet this challenge and defend communities.
Second, Sunak may have sacked Braverman but the direction of state policy has not changed. The government is still talking about bringing in more powers to ban protests: even though it has done this repeatedly, and officers can already threaten you with years in jail for being a “nuisance” or shut down demonstrations before disorder begins.
We need to reverse the authoritarian march of British politics and raise pressure for Labour to commit to the repeal of Tory anti-protest laws. Such pressure is also the best way to weaken what will no doubt be a bid by Braverman to rally hard-right support on the back benches for a future Tory leadership bid based on the poisonous politics we have seen from her this month.
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