Will Priti Patel resign?
Former aide reportedly received £25,000 payout over alleged bullying
A former aide to Priti Patel received a £25,000 payout from the government after allegedly attempting suicide following “unprovoked aggression” and bullying by the Tory minister, according to reports.
Legal correspondence seen by the BBC says that the unnamed civil servant claims she was dismissed because Patel did not “like [her] face”. The then minister for employment is alleged to have shouted at the woman in her private office, telling her to “get lost” and “get out of her face”.
Patel acted “without warning” and with an “unprovoked level of aggression”, say the legal documents.
The files state that the junior aide subsequently took an overdose at work, followed by a further overdose at home, and was then rushed to hospital, where she spent the night in resuscitation.
She brought a formal complaint of bullying and harassment against the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) after being sacked in October 2015.
“A settlement was reached in 2017 for £25,000 after the member of staff threatened to bring a legal claim of bullying, harassment and discrimination on the grounds of race and disability against the department, including Ms Patel who is directly named,” reports the BBC.
The claims surfaced hours after the Cabinet Office pledged to investigate whether Patel, now home secretary, had breached the ministerial code, amid other allegations of bullying.
The inquiry announcement followed the resignation of Philip Rutnam, the Home Office’s most senior civil servant, who claims that Patel waged a “vicious and orchestrated” campaign against him.
What are the other allegations against Patel?
Several allegations of bullying and misconduct have been brought against Patel.
Ministers who have worked with her in government have described a “pattern” of unacceptable behaviour spanning her ministerial career, says The Times.
In one of the recent alleged incidents, HuffPost reports that Patel asked Rutnam, then permanent secretary at the Home Office, to fire the department’s head of news on Christmas Eve.
“Rutnam, however, refused to act until the new year, believing it too cruel,” says the news site.
Concerns over Patel’s behaviour were raised directly with No. 10 in 2017, when she was serving as international development secretary.
“It is one thing to be a tough and demanding minister - and that is entirely appropriate - but there is a line that you do not cross. She persistently went over that line,” a minister who worked with her at the time told The Times.
Another senior figure in the Department for International Development said that Patel was “reviled” for her “rudeness and insensitivity”.
“She could not have been more hated for the way she treated people. She was just vile,” the source added.
Patel’s most recent spat has seen her allegedly force out Rutnam from the Home Office, where she has ruled since last July.
According to The Times, several sources say Patel has clashed repeatedly with Home Office staff over her demands, some of which were considered illegal by officials.
In a public statement announcing his resignation on Saturday, Rutnam alleged that her conduct had included “swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands”.
The former permanent secretary also said he would be suing the Home Office for constructive dismissal.
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And the reaction?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Patel following Rutnam’s allegations, saying publicly that she was “a fantastic home secretary”, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock described her as “courteous” .
Meanwhile, Labour leadership front-runner Keir Starmer tweeted that he welcomed “the announcement that the Cabinet Secretary will be holding an inquiry into the Home Secretary’s conduct”, but added that “we need assurances that this inquiry will cover Priti Patel’s entire career as a minister”.
Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed calls by the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, for an “independent” inquiry into Patel’s conduct, saying an internal investigation would lack “objectivity”.
Addressing Parliament before the payout reports surfaced, Corbyn said Patel should be sacked if Rutnam’s accusations were found to be true.
Will she resign?
On Monday, hours before the latest allegations emerged, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Parliament that Patel “absolutely rejects” claims of bullying, adding that the investigation into whether she had breached the ministerial code would “establish the facts”.
“The prime minister has expressed his full confidence in her and having worked closely with the home secretary over a number of years, I have the highest regard for her - she is a superb minister doing a great job,” Gove said.
“This government always takes any complaints relating to the ministerial code seriously, and in line with the process set out in the ministerial code the prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to establish the facts.
“We make no apology of having strong ministers in place.”
A spokesperson for Patel last night said that “the home secretary completely rejects all allegations made against her”.