A draft report by the Standards Chief, Sir Alex Allan, has found that the Home Secretary did break the Ministerial Code of behaviour. Despite this, the PM has publicly backed her. Sir Alex resigned as a result.
An inquiry was launched last June after the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, publicly resigned accusing the Home Secretary of bullying in the workplace.
These claims were shot down by the Government, who said that the Civil Service was being deliberately difficult and obstructive because they politically disagreed with the Government.
Several people also came to Ms Patel’s aid, saying that although she was a hard boss who expected a lot, outside the office she was very warm and kind.
I worked with Priti Patel. We were on Foreign Affairs Committee together.
Is she a strong woman?
Yes. I'm sure she needed to be to get where she's got.
Did I ever see her bully anyone?
Never. Not once.
Daughter of refugees becomes Home Secretary?
Great British success story.
— Ian Austin (@LordIanAustin) November 19, 2020
That report, which has just been published by the PM’s Chief of Standards, claims that Ms Priti Patel did break the Ministerial Code on behaviour.
The report (which looked into her conduct while Home Secretary, Secretary of State for International Development and Minister of State for Employment) asserts that Ms Patel “has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect”, afterwards citing examples of “shouting and swearing”.
Following that, it states that: “Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.
“To that extent, her behaviour has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally.” But it did also point out that she had “legitimately not always felt supported by the department”. Its conclusion was that the home secretary was given no information on the impact of her behaviour and was therefore not able to resolve this.
As a result, the Home Secretary apologised with the statement: “I am direct and have at times got frustrated”, but added: “It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone. I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people.”
However, since the findings emerged, the Prime Minister has remained loyal to his Home Secretary, refusing to fire her (which is normal procedure when the Ministerial Code is found to have been breached). Instead, he has said he “does not believe that Priti Patel is a bully”, pointing to evidence of “mitigating circumstances” in the report and the Home Secretary’s “full and frank apology”. Mr Johnson has said that he takes bullying “very seriously”.
Due to the PM’s final decision not to fire the Home Secretary, therefore going against some of the conclusions in the long-awaited report, Sir Alex decided to resign.
Johnson’s decision was condemned by the leaders of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Keir Starmer stated that, if in the PM’s position, he would have removed the Home Secretary from her position. The Lib Dems came out with a similar statement, saying there was “one rule for him and his friends and another for everyone else”.