Politics

PM ‘appalled’ at Met Police ‘openly Jewish’ exchange – but Sadiq Khan has full confidence in commissioner

Sadiq Khan has confidence in Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley despite him facing calls to quit over the force’s handling of a recent pro-Palestine protest, Sky News understands.

It comes after Energy Secretary Claire Coutino told Sky News that the incident in London – in which an officer was captured on video calling a man “openly Jewish” and threatening him with arrest – was “completely wrong” and that “what happens next” with regard to Sir Mark was a “matter for the Labour London mayor”.

Sky News understands that Sir Mark does still retain the confidence of Mr Khan, who as mayor has the power to effectively sack the commissioner – but can only do so with the permission of the home secretary, who can also require the mayor to dismiss the head of the Met.

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A spokesperson for the London mayor said: “Everybody must feel safe going about in London wherever they please. The way the original incident was dealt with by the Met was concerning and the original response put out by them was insensitive and wrong.

“The Met have an extremely difficult job – particularly so when it comes to operational decisions taken while policing marches.

“But in the end the Met must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response.”

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Coutinho: Met has ‘got it wrong’

Mr Rowley, who replaced Cressida Dick as Met commissioner in 2022, is facing calls to quit following the officer’s interaction with Gideon Falter, the chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

In the video, an officer appears to prevent Mr Falter from crossing the road and tells him: “You are quite openly Jewish. This is a pro-Palestinian march. I am not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence.”

Mr Falter, who was wearing a yarmulke and said he was simply walking past after attending synagogue, was then threatened with arrest if he did not leave the area.

He told Sky News that Londoners cannot have confidence in the Met under Sir Mark’s leadership and accused the commissioner of “victim blaming” following the incident, for which he has received two apologies.

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New video of ‘openly Jewish’ row

Mr Falter was joined in his call for Sir Mark to go by former home secretary Suella Braverman, who said there had been “failure after failure by the Met” over the last six months.

In an interview with Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, Ms Coutinho repeatedly declined to say whether Sir Mark should quit following the incident, but said what happened was “completely wrong”.

“It’s not right that one group of people in society should be told they can’t go around their daily lives because it might be a provocation to someone else,” she said.

“That’s not how equality works in this country.

“So I do think they’ve got it wrong. I think it’s right that they’ve apologised, and ultimately, what happens next is a matter for the Labour London Mayor who has the responsibility to hold the Met to account.”

On Sunday morning the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a statement in which it called for an “urgent meeting” with Sir Mark following “a series of high-profile errors” regarding its policing of pro-Palestine marches.

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“The Metropolitan Police has made a series of high-profile errors in their responses to these demonstrations,” the statement read.

“The entirely avoidable mistakes have had a devastating effect on the previously high level of trust held by the UK’s Jewish community in the police.

“We have written to the commissioner to ask for an urgent meeting to reinforce the gravity of the situation and to begin to repair this grievous loss of confidence.”

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Met resignation is ‘not the way forward’

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said the Met had “not covered themselves in glory” over the incident with Mr Falter but that she did not agree with calls for Sir Mark to resign.

“I can understand the strength of feeling and as I say that footage was very concerning, and I can understand where Mr Falter is coming from,” she told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.

“But I don’t think that the resignation of the Met’s commissioner is the way forward.”

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