Rishi Sunak last night warned Britain’s top policeman he will be ‘held accountable’ if pro-Palestine marches wreck this weekend’s Remembrance events.
In a highly unusual move, the Prime Minister summoned Sir Mark Rowley to Downing Street to protest about his decision to approve a massive Armistice Day march, which the police acknowledge could trigger ‘violence and disorder’.
At a tense 45-minute showdown in No 10, Mr Sunak said the ‘disrespectful and provocative’ pro-Palestine march by up to a million people should not be allowed to go ahead on a day when Britain remembers its war dead.
But Sir Mark said the threat of violence was not high enough to trigger legal powers that would allow him to ban the rally.
A government source said the PM had told Sir Mark that he would carry the can if the anti-Israel protest led to disorder. ‘The PM made it very clear that he does not think this march should be allowed to go ahead,’ the source said.
Mr Sunak said the ‘disrespectful and provocative’ pro-Palestine march by up to a million people should not be allowed to go ahead
‘But he respects the operational independence of the police. They have given assurances that they will do everything possible to prevent trouble.
‘And he has made clear to Sir Mark that he is going to hold him accountable if there are problems. This is a big weekend for Sir Mark. He has made a big call – let’s hope he’s got it right.’
The PM said last night it was not too late to ban the march, and Sir Mark had ‘committed to keep the Met’s posture under constant review based on the latest intelligence about the nature of the protests’.
But ministers fear time is running out to prevent a protest for which organisers have already booked coaches for thousands of people travelling from the North and Midlands.
Whitehall sources said ministers were considering emergency legislation to make it easier for the police to ban disruptive protests, but this cannot be done in time to protect the Remembrance events.
Sir Keir Starmer triggered an angry backlash last night when he accused the PM of ‘cowardice’ for ‘picking a fight’ with Sir Mark.
But Downing Street said Mr Sunak remained deeply concerned about the potential for violence on Saturday.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has branded the planned protest a ‘hate march’. The Met yesterday revealed it had made 188 arrests involving hate crimes linked to protests in the capital since the Hamas atrocities in Israel on October 7.
Speaking after yesterday’s meeting, the Prime Minister said that ‘those who seek to divide society’ could seek to exploit the march and cause trouble.
Sir Mark said the threat of violence was not high enough to trigger legal powers that would allow him to ban the rally
The Met yesterday revealed it had made 188 arrests involving hate crimes linked to protests in the capital since the Hamas atrocities in Israel on October 7
Downing Street said Mr Sunak remained deeply concerned about the potential for violence on Saturday
Rishi Sunak last night warned Britain’s top policeman he will be ‘held accountable’ if pro-Palestine marches wreck this weekend’s Remembrance events
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has branded the planned protest a ‘hate march’
Mr Sunak said the planned protest on Armistice Day was ‘not just disrespectful but offends our heartfelt gratitude to the memory of those who gave so much so that we may live in freedom and peace today’.
The PM acknowledged that ‘part of that freedom is the right to peacefully protest’. But Downing Street said marches on previous weekends had spread fear among the Jewish community.
Last night Mrs Braverman accused the Met of ‘playing favourites’ with protesters over its decision to let Saturday’s pro-Palestinian march go ahead.
She told The Times: ‘I do not believe that these marches are merely a cry for help for Gaza. They are an assertion of primacy by certain groups – particularly Islamists – of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland.
Environmental activists plan to disrupt Saturday’s Lord Mayor’s Show
Environmental activists plan to disrupt Saturday’s Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London, it was reported last night.
The action could cause a ‘triple threat’ of chaos in the capital on top of a mass pro-Palestine march coinciding with Armistice Day.
Some 250,000 people are expected to line the three-mile route for the 695th show, in which the city elects a new Lord Mayor. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer told LBC Radio it would be ‘wholly inappropriate’ for activists to interfere.
‘Also disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster are the reports that some of Saturday’s march group organisers have links to terrorist groups, including Hamas.’
The police decision on Tuesday to give the green light to the protest surprised ministers after senior officers warned the previous day of a growing threat of disorder.
Far-Right groups and football hooligans have warned they will travel to London to help ‘protect’ sensitive sites such as the Cenotaph – raising further risks of trouble.
Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Ade Adelekan said on Monday that ‘the risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups is growing’ – and urged the march organisers to abandon it.
The Met had urged march organisers to ‘urgently reconsider’ the event on Saturday because of a growing risk of violence, but the pro-Palestinian coalition behind it has refused to call it off.
The force could request the power to ban the event under Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986, but that would apply only if there was the threat of serious public disorder which could not be controlled by other measures.
Sir Mark said the intelligence associated with Saturday’s demonstration did not meet the threshold required.
He vowed that officers would act to prevent disruption ‘at all costs’.
A Whitehall source said: ‘How can you say on Monday that there is a growing risk of violence and disorder and then say on Tuesday that it’s fine to go ahead?’
Sir Keir waded into the row in an apparent attempt to distract attention from Labour’s turmoil over Gaza, which yesterday saw shadow minister Imran Hussain become the first to quit the frontbench in protest at the Labour leader’s refusal to back a ceasefire.
Sir Keir, who is backing the march to go ahead, said: ‘Picking a fight with the police instead of working with them is cowardice.’
Profile: Met boss putting his reputation on the line
As Britain’s top police officer, Sir Mark Rowley’s mantra is often: ‘I’m out there in the middle of it.’
This week Scotland Yard’s Commissioner finds himself in an uncomfortable spot as he faces a clamour from Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman to clamp down on a pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day.
But the officer sometimes known as the Met’s ‘reassurer-in-chief’ is used to pressure.
Last year he returned from retirement to lead the force at a time when its reputation had reached a nadir. ‘I didn’t have to come back after I’d retired four and a half years ago,’ he told the Mail at the time.
‘I was doing things that were more relaxing, less stressful. But I came back because it still matters deeply to me and that trumped all other considerations.’
The grammar school boy from Birmingham has spent his life in policing, joining his local force after graduating from Cambridge with a maths degree. ‘I decided to join the police when I was 17,’ he said. ‘It’s a weird thing, isn’t it, because it was so clear; there was never any doubt in my mind. I think it’s about public service; the idea that what you do really matters so much to people.’
This week Scotland Yard’s Commissioner finds himself in an uncomfortable spot as he faces a clamour from Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman to clamp down on a pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day
Eighteen months into the job, he was kicked unconscious by a gang of football thugs in Birmingham. He recalled: ‘I went to arrest a man who’d come out of a pub and smashed a window with a pint glass or beer bottle.
‘Things I wish I’d known: that he was on a stag night with a group of football hooligans.
‘I was relaxed about making an arrest on my own – there was another officer on foot 100 or so yards away; I’d radioed for help. If you’re scared of your own shadow, you don’t do anything. I thought: “A car will be here in a couple of minutes.”
‘But I ended up on the floor with six or eight men kicking me unconscious. The most useful thing I did before I blacked out was to rip his shirt off his back so he was running round Birmingham city centre topless! He got 18 months for GBH.’
Undeterred, he then took up a detective post at the National Criminal Intelligence Service – a forerunner of the National Crime Agency – before taking on a series of senior roles at Surrey Police in a familiar fast-track route to Met leadership.
The 59-year-old led the investigation into the murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler, then in 2008 became chief constable of Surrey, where he achieved record public confidence levels. In 2011 he joined the Met as Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations. He reduced shootings by 42 per cent and murders in London fell to a record low.
Renowned for being calm under pressure, he became a familiar figure on TV when he led counter-terrorism policing during an unprecedented period of attacks from 2014 to 2018
Renowned for being calm under pressure, he became a familiar figure on TV when he led counter-terrorism policing during an unprecedented period of attacks from 2014 to 2018.
In 2017, he pitched for the top job, but lost out to Dame Cressida Dick. Disappointed, Sir Mark retired a year later after being knighted for his ‘exceptional contribution to national security at a time of unprecedented threat’.
For four years he enjoyed a gentler pace of life, working as a strategic security adviser, supporting his childhood football team Aston Villa and running 25 miles a week. He also published a novel about counter-terrorism with former Daily Mail environment editor David Derbyshire.
But when Dame Cressida was later forced out of office, Sir Mark was eager to return.
A married father of two adult children, he says he cares about the capital deeply: ‘I live in London,’ he said. ‘Have done for 25 years. Even when I was policing in Surrey, I was living in London. I love it. I grew up in Birmingham.
‘I like the bustle and buzz and edge of cities. London matters to me.
‘My kids grew up here and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.’ Let’s hope this weekend his officers are able to protect the city he cares so much about.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk