Rishi Sunak is facing a growing clamour from within his own party to sack Suella Braverman, with one party grandee calling for her head for “weaponising” Armistice Day.
The prime minister is under increasing pressure over an incendiary article in which his home secretary accused the police of bias over a pro-Palestine protest.
Former cabinet minister Baroness Warsi said Ms Braverman “must be sacked”, while ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve said she should not lay a wreath at the Cenotaph this weekend after “weaponising” Remembrance commemorations.
Writing for The Independent, Mr Grieve said: “The best thing the Prime Minister can do for us is to ensure that there is a new home secretary (before Sunday).”
Her job is on the line after Downing Street made clear that it had not approved an extraordinary article in which she accused the Metropolitan Police of bias in favour of left-wing protests, including a planned pro-Palestinian march on Saturday, which is Armistice Day.
Downing Street is still investigating after it demanded that changes be made to the piece but the request was ignored.
While No 10 insisted Mr Sunak had confidence in Ms Braverman it would not be drawn on when the two last spoke.
If Ms Braverman is sacked it is thought this will not happen until next week at the earliest, given a packed weekend of commemoration events.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt became the most senior minister to distance himself from her controversial comments, saying: “The words that she used are not words that I myself would have used.”
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the treasurer of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, called on Mr Sunak to seek assurances over her future behaviour or replace her.
Overnight, justice committee chair Sir Bob Neill said her position was untenable, while ex-minister Tim Loughton said she was “not making it easy” to remain in post.
But Mr Sunak also faced a backlash from supporters of Ms Braverman.
One, Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson, appeared to send a warning shot to his own party when he said she was “guilty of saying what most of us are thinking” and “thank goodness we have a home secretary who refuses to be cancelled”.
Skills minister Robert Halfon also declined to say whether Ms Braverman would still be the home secretary this time next week.
Changes demanded by No 10 which were not made before the article was printed are thought to include altering a passage comparing Saturday’s march to rallies in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Labour on Thursday mocked the Prime Minister as “spineless” and accused Ms Braverman of breaking the ministerial code, which can be a sackable offence.
The rules for ministers state that “all major interviews and media appearances, both print and broadcast, should also be agreed with the No 10 press office”.
Senior Tories rounded on Ms Braverman, including Sir Bob, who accused the home secretary of “a history of ill judgement and loose words”. He added that he believes she has “compromised her own position” by prejudging safety concerns over the pro-Palestinian march.
Mr Grieve also told BBC Newsnight: “It is not for her publicly to attack the police in this fashion and it gives the impression she wishes to control the police decision-making and that in a free and democratic society is unacceptable. On the face of it she has created chaos within government.”
Asked whether Ms Braverman’s job was untenable, he said: “It looks to me to be untenable.”
Asked bySky News whether the PM had confidence in Ms Braverman, Mr Halfon refused to answer.
Pressed on whether she would be sacked, the minister said: “The Prime Minister decides who his ministers are. That’s way above my pay grade.”
Ms Braverman’s article in The Times compared “pro-Palestinian mobs” to marches in Northern Ireland and claimed the protesters are “largely ignored” by officers “even when clearly breaking the law”.
She has already called the demonstrations attended by thousands “hate marches”.
Asked whether he agreed with Ms Braverman, Mr Halfon said: “I’ve always thought that it’s absolutely essential that the operational independence of the police is respected.
“The PM is doing everything he can to ensure that remembrance services go ahead successfully and peacefully.”
But, amid fears Saturday’s march could descend into violence, Mr Halfon said the police will be “accountable for what happens”.