London — British leader Rishi Sunak sacked controversial interior minister Suella Braverman Monday, as he attempts a reset by reshuffling his top team ahead of a general election expected next year.
Sunak had come under growing pressure to axe Braverman, an outspoken right-winger, after critics accused her of heightening tensions during weeks of contentious pro-Palestinian demonstrations and counter-protests in Britain.
The prime minister replaced 43-year-old Braverman, who was appointed to the post when Sunak became prime minister just over a year ago, with James Cleverly, who has been foreign secretary.
Following her dismissal, Braverman said "it has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as home secretary".
"I will have more to say in due course," she added.
The firing comes as the ruling Conservatives confirmed a major reshuffle of Sunak's top ministers was underway -- his first since becoming the country's leader in October last year.
"Here we go," the party said on X, formerly Twitter.
"Today @RishiSunak strengthens his team in government to deliver long-term decisions for a brighter future."
The changes, set to be announced throughout the day, are expected to reward loyalists and younger emerging MPs, after nearly 14 years in power takes its toll on the Tories' popularity.
The party has trailed the main Labour opposition by double-digit margins throughout Sunak's time in power, and is widely tipped to lose the next election due next year.
Braverman had stoked controversy throughout her tenure, taking a hardline stance on immigration in particular and regularly wading into so-called culture wars issues which are seen as dividing the electorate.
But her position became increasingly untenable after she last week wrote an explosive newspaper article, without Sunak's approval, accusing police of bias towards left-wing causes.
In an opinion piece published in the Times daily newspaper, Braverman suggested officers "play favourites" when policing protests and claimed they largely ignored "pro-Palestinian mobs" during the demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war.
The article was blamed for stoking tensions ahead of a weekend of protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which coincided with Armistice Day events, and prompted calls for her to be sacked.
Critics said her comments had encouraged far-right protesters to hold counter demos on the sidelines of the main march on Saturday.
Some 150 people from the mass protest were detained under public order legislation for wearing face coverings and setting off fireworks, while 82 counter-protesters were held to prevent them infiltrating the main march.
Groups of men, many wearing black with their faces covered and waving England's St George's flag and the Union Jack, tried to break through police lines at The Cenotaph war memorial on Whitehall.
Downing Street launched an investigation into how the article was published without its consent, as required by the ministerial code.
Braverman's comments, seen as red meat to the right wing of the governing Conservative party, were also viewed as an attempt to position herself as a future leader of the Tories.
They came after she described the rallies calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as "hate marches", days after claiming some people were homeless as a "lifestyle choice".
The right-winger has attacked her critics as liberal "tofu-eating wokerati" while saying shortly after she was appointed that sending asylum seekers to Rwanda was her "dream" and "obsession".