Sunak declines to rule out Braverman’s homeless tents ban as rebel Tories say: ‘Not in my name’

PM thought to be considering home secretary’s idea, despite Tory warns she is ‘re-toxifying the party’

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 08 November 2023 16:06 GMT
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Former Conservative Minister calls Suella Braverman 'dangerous and divisive'

Rishi Sunak has declined to rule out restricting tents for homeless people, despite growing Tory outrage over the move proposed by home secretary Suella Braverman.

Although the plan was not included in the King’s Speech, No 10 sources said it was still “undergoing scrutiny” in government – refusing to rule out the idea it could be added to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Asked if there would be restriction on tents in the bill, Mr Sunak ducked the question and said: “I don’t want anyone to have to sleep rough and I’m proud of the government’s track record over the past few years in tackling that.”

Tory MP Richard Graham openly criticised Ms Braverman’s tents ban idea and her rhetoric in describing pro-Palestine rallies “hate marches” – saying it was: “Not in my name.”

The backbencher suggested the home secretary was helping “inflame” community tensions at a time when she should be trying to “calm” the country.

It comes as several Tories shared their frustration with the “arsonist” home secretary – with the whips’ office reportedly dealing with more complaints by Ms Braverman’s remarks about homeless people than any of her many controversies.

Tory moderates are appalled by the home secretary’s description of rough sleeping as a “lifestyle choice” – remarks thought to cause considerable unease in No 10 – and are unhappy about the tents.

One Tory MP told Politico that Ms Braverman was “was single-handedly re-toxifying the party”, while another said: “I think the home secretary might be an arsonist. After everything she has said, it’s clear she is intent on burning the house down.”

Tory MP Nickie Aiken, former deputy chair of the party, was also critical. She told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I would say that her language is wrong and I would say it’s not about tents … Let’s move away from the tents and think about the people inside those tents.”

Suella Braverman under fire from Tory MPs

Ms Braverman had proposed establishing a civil offence to deter charities from providing tents to homeless people in need. The potential measures would also seek to prevent the obstruction of shop doorways by rough sleepers using tents.

Details of the Criminal Justice Bill had been due to be set out on Wednesday – but its introduction has reportedly been delayed by discussions about whether to include Ms Braverman’s tents plan.

Health secretary Steve Barclay became the latest senior Tory to distance himself from Ms Braverman’s “lifestyle” comments on Wednesday. Energy secretary Claire Coutinho and justice secretary Alex Chalk have done the same

Mr Sunak again refused to repeat Ms Braverman’s remarks on Wednesday, and did not directly say he agreed with them. Asked if he felt she was undermining him, the PM said: “What the home secretary and the government is doing is focus on people’s priorities.”

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke and former Tory minister Vicky Ford have made it clear that they disagree with Ms Braverman’s claim about a “lifestyle choice”.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure over Braverman’s latest remarks

Tory grandee Dominic Grieve has said Ms Braverman was “not fit” to be home secretary. The ex-cabinet minister told The Independent: “The home secretary’s comments on homelessness being a lifestyle choice are a million miles from reality.”

Colin Bloom, the government’s former adviser on faith engagement, said the home secretary was “goading” Mr Sunak to sack her with the homelessness and “hate marches” remarks.

But Tory MP Esther McVey said Ms Braverman was “does not want the sack” because then she would be accused of not doing her job properly.

“What she’s saying is, you can’t get rid of me.  There is a reshuffle coming forward and she’s saying, I’m going to be quite out there…I have to stay in,” the ex-minister told GB News on Wednesday.

Senior Tory peer Baroness Warsi accused Ms Braverman of being “dangerous and divisive” for her comments on the pro-Palestine rallies which “embolden the far right”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also took aim at the cabinet minister during the King’s Speech debate on Tuesday. “We have a party so devoid of leadership it is happy to follow a home secretary who describes homelessness as a lifestyle choice,” he told MPs.

Homeless charities have also expressed their outrage at Ms Braverman’s comments, with the Salvation Army saying: “Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets but penalising those that do will cause vulnerable people harm.”

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