Suella Braverman and Tory critics of the police are undermining public confidence in law enforcement and eroding trust in Britain’s system of democracy, according to heated WhatsApp exchanges among Tory MPs leaked to Sky News.
The true scale of the civil war between Tory MPs over the policing of pro-Palestinian marches and behaviour of the home secretary is tonight revealed in dozens of private messages between them which lift the lid on a far greater scale of discontent in the party than is currently playing out in public.
The angry WhatsApp debate has led to angry exchanges between figures who both back and oppose Mrs Braverman, with some accusing her Tory critics of helping Labour, while others are accused of inflaming the far right.
In one exchange, the Tory MP Karl McCartney attacked Bob Neill, the Tory MP who went public with his criticism of Mrs Braverman, saying he and other critics of the home secretary would be getting Christmas cards from the Labour shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper.
“You stretch our patience,” Mr McCartney declared.
On the other side of the debate, Jackie Doyle-Price said that Tory MPs should not ignore the fact there is a legitimate right to protest and added: “Colleagues making noise about them are simply advertising them and make them bigger as a consequence.”
She later told Sky News she was more concerned about advertising the marches to the English Defence League and hard right “to kick up trouble.”
She said: “I wish as much attention was paid to my speeches as my WhatsApp messages”.
Danny Kruger, the socially conservative MP and strong backer of Ms Braverman, weighed in firmly behind the home secretary.
He said it was entirely legitimate for the government and Tory MPs to comment on how the police operate.
“Ofc (of course) if they did enforce the law – eg against face coverings or racist changes – there would be serious disorder, and so they’d have a reason to request a ban. The only way to avoid disorder is to tolerate the intolerable, to allow the illegal.”
He said that it was no longer enough to have a “quiet word” with the police when there were issues and instead advocated for “proper challenge”.
The veteran Tory MP Bernard Jenkin made a firm intervention in the group against public criticism by Conservatives of the police, receiving support from a number of his colleagues.
Mr Jenkin, who has been a Tory MP since 1992, asked colleagues if he was the only one “who thinks it is it most unfortunate that the chief of Met Police is being placed under pressure from the government, which threatens to compromise public confidence in his operational independence?”
It comes following Ms Braverman’s explosive article in The Times on Wednesday, in which she accused the Met Police of having “double standards” on how it policed protests.
The testy exchange began when Jackie Doyle-Price, who served in government under David Cameron and Theresa May, argued with Sir John Hayes about whether protesting is a right or allowed.
Sir John is an arch-backer of Ms Braverman.
He said it was “so sad to see protests being allowed on the Remembrance weekend”.
Sir John said it was “wholly inappropriate” – and called on colleagues to “speak for the law-abiding, patriotic majority by saying so”.
Ms Doyle-Price emphasised protesting was a right and not something to be “allowed”.
Some of those siding with Sir John included Danny Kruger, Michael Fabricant, Jill Mortimer and Mr McCartney.
William Wragg agreed with Mr Jenkin, as did Ms Doyle-Price, Tim Loughton and Mr Neill.
“I’ve had enough of this rubbish”, William Wragg said following the debate.
This was preceded by a warning not to conduct this discussion on WhatsApp because “some colleagues are untrustworthy disgraceful leakers”.
The messages leaked to Sky News are from a Tory MP WhatsApp group and were sent yesterday and today.
Ms Doyle-Price advised MPs to “express their views to whips and to the home secretary directly”, while Ms Mortimer warned about colleagues leaking messages sent on WhatsApp.
Full WhatsApp exchanges
Here are the messages between Tory MPs that have been leaked to Sky News:
Wednesday 8 November
Sir John Hayes (22:55): So sad to see protests being allowed on the remembrance weekend. Wholly inapproriate (sic)… and we should speak for the law abiding, patriotic majority by saying so.
Thursday 9 November
Jackie Doyle-Price (09.07): There is a right to protest. They are not “allowed”. Colleagues making noise about them are simply advertising them and will make them bigger as a consequence.
Sir John Hayes (09:23): They have been “allowed” by the Chief Constable, who could have requested that they be stopped.
The legal right to protest has always been qualified by when, where and how, which is why organisers routinely deal with the police and local authorities.
Surely, most of our constituents will regard the remembrance weekend as a time for quiet, solemn reflection.
Sir Bernard Jenkin (09:28): Am I the only Conservative MP who thinks it is most unfortunate that Chief of Met Police is being placed under public pressure from the government, which threatens to compromise public confidence in his operational independence?
If he does now ban demonstrations, some will say he has given in to political pressure.
These conversations should be conducted in private, without undermining public confidence in policing in London.
William Wragg (09:29): No, you’re not the only one.
Danny Kruger (09:31): I didn’t notice us all staying quiet when the cops dragged off women at the Sarah Everard vigil, or allowed BLM to demonstrate with impunity. Ofc we and govt should comment on how the police operate. And note Home Sec isn’t calling for Met to request a ban (tho they should imo), just to enforce the law.
(09:35): (Ofc, if they did enforce the law – eg against face coverings or racist chants – there would be serious disorder, and so they’d have a reason to request a ban. The only way to avoid disorder is to tolerate the intolerable, to allow the illegal).
Jackie Doyle-Price (09:39): No you are not.
John Stevenson (09:39): Absolutely not.
Jonathan Djanogly (09:48): Police can’t ban protests. They can however place restrictions on them. The Everard case gave rise to the question arising when the placing of restrictions effectively gives the police the right to ban protest.
This has been compounded by recent legislation giving more powers to condition eg in relation to noise levels and protest nèar businesses etc.
The net result is that the police are increasingly being accused of political interference.
I don’t see this reversing unless we depoliticise the police engagement by moving to a N Ireland style Parade Commission whereby restrictions are placed by community reps, rather than the Police.
It seems to be working v well in N Ireland, where it is generally regarded to have depoliticised Police.
Bob Blackman adds Jill Mortimer, Tom Hunt and Brendan Clarke-Smith to the chat
Tim Loughton (10.01): You are not Bernard.
Danny Kruger (10:05): Here come the cavalry.
Bob Neill (10:08): Absolutely you are not Bernard,
Danny Kruger (10:14): Helpful thank you Jonathan. I don’t think we need non-political oversight of the police, the set-up now is right – we just need police to enforce the law equally.
Kit Malthouse (10:38): I defended the police in both those instances, as I did with the toppling of the statue and various other difficult operational situations. Yes they don’t always get it right, as they would freely admit, but as we scrutinise them, they deserve our respect don’t they?
Bob Blackman adds Robin Millar to the chat
Danny Kruger (10:50): I respect your consistency Kit and I remember you were very robust on the rioters in 2011 when I was still hugging hoodies… but times have changed and a quiet word behind closed doors won’t convince the public we are on their side and share their attitude to these disgraceful protests. What happened to ‘the police are the public’? So yes respect but also proper challenge.
Sir Bernard Jenkin (10:56): But this confrontational public discourse strikes me as another example of the fraying of the unwritten understandings on which the stability of our constitutional settlement rests, and which undermines public confidence in our system of government and democracy.
Finger pointing and blaming does not strengthen our institutions. It undermines public confidence in them, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, I see no political advantage in it, if that’s the idea behind it.
Jackie Doyle-Price (10:59): There is no political advantage whatever. Running in front of an angry herd won’t stop Government from being held accountable for any trouble. Particularly when public comments have been so divisive.
Michael Fabricant (11:07): Did the Met ban a right wing rally back around 2011?
James Grundy (11:09): Yes, I think it was the EDL in Tower Hamlets if I recall?
Jill Mortimer (11:11): There was this too [shares link to story in Evening Standard over pro-Israel rally in Golders Green]
Michael Fabricant (11:11): So unlike the claims of the Met Police Commissioner who said we cannot, it seems we CAN ban marches after all. Or has the law changed since?
James Grundy (11:15): I think he claimed the threshold of risk hadn’t been reached rather than any change on the law, which is of course his decision, but given the very different approach to the Golders Green march Jill references above, it does seem inconsistent.
(11:16) *In the law sorry.
Jill Mortimer (11:17): It is consistent with the bigger scarier mob being allowed to have their march – isn’t that what reasonable people would call bullying?
James Grundy (11:17): A fair assessment Jill.
Jill Mortimer (11:18): It would seem that the aggressors win and those who actually just want peaceful reflection must remain silenced
Bob Blackman adds Marco Longhi to the chat
Karl McCartney (21:42): Really pleased with @Bob Neill and @Richard Graham’s helpful public carping in last 24hrs, (I’m sure the Christmas cards from Yvette Cooper will take pride of place amongst all their others)… but not as half-pleased as they obviously both are with themselves.
You stretch our patience. Just like the ‘ever popular’ [Anna] Soubry did.
Jackie Doyle-Price (21:48): I would advise colleagues to express their views to whips and to the Home Secretary directly.
Friday 10 November
Lee Anderson (08:10): You mean instead of to the press?
Virginia Crosbie (08:11): Yes please
Jill Mortimer (08:11): …and on WhatsApp because some colleagues are untrustworthy disgraceful leakers?
William Wragg (08:27): I’ve had enough of this rubbish