Allies of Priti Patel leapt to the Home Secretary’s defence today in the wake of a critical bullying report – amid claims that she may be demoted in the new year.
Ms Patel, 48, apologised for her treatment of civil servants on Friday after an official investigation found she bullied staff, on occasion shouting and swearing at them.
Boris Johnson has so far defied his critics to rally Tory MPs around her, disagreeing with his standards adviser and ruling her behaviour did not break conduct rules for ministers.
But the Sunday Times today suggested she could be demoted in a New Year reshuffle and replaced by Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, who worked for Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London.
The PM let the Home Secretary off with an apology after the investigation launched in March found she broke the ministerial code but also blasted ‘inflexible’ civil servants for obstructing her.
And her allies defended her management style today, with one telling the Sunday Times: ‘People in real life do not carry on as if everything is like an Enid Blyton novel and sometimes things go wrong and people say things out of frustration that they would not say to their mother,’
Another lashed out at the ‘racism and misogyny’ she had suffered at the Home Office, claiming it was ‘the worst of her career’.
Ms Patel, 48, apologised for her treatment of civil servants on Friday after an official investigation found she bullied staff, on occasion shouting and swearing at them
Boris Johnson has so far defied his critics to rally Tory MPs around her, disagreeing with his standards adviser and ruling her behaviour did not break conduct rules for ministers
But the Sunday Times today suggested she could be demoted in a New Year reshuffle and replaced by Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, who worked for Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London
Meanwhile Ms Patel appears to be taking revenge over madarins at the department with a sweeping reform of the department.
Officials will be forced to work weekends and a new system of performance reviews will be brought in under an agreement made with permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft, the Sunday Telegraph said.
Mr Johnson last week override calls to sack Mr Patel, urging Tory MPs in a Whatsapp message it was ‘time to form a square around the prittster’.
The decision to keep her in her post – taken during the UK’s anti-bullying week – sparked a furious new row in Westminster at a time when Mr Johnson is attempting to rest his government after the departure of top aide Dominic Cummings last week.
Sir Alex said Ms Patel’s frustrations had seen her shout and swear in some instances. In his published advice, he said: ‘She is action-orientated and can be direct.
‘The Home Secretary has also become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in DfID (the now defunct Department for International Development) three years ago.
‘The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing.
‘This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.’
Sir Alex added: ‘My advice is that the Home Secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect.
‘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.’
Normally ministers are expected to resign if they breach the code but the Prime Minister makes the final decision and deemed it not a resigning matter.
Ms Patel spoke to broadcasters on Friday night, saying: ‘I’m sorry that my behaviour has upset people and I’ve never intentionally set out to upset anyone.
‘I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day and we work together day in day out to deliver on the agenda of this Government and I’m absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset.’
Shadow business minister Lucy Powell said today it is ‘appalling’ that Boris Johnson has decided to back Priti Patel, rather than sacking her.
She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: ‘I think her (Ms Patel’s) position’s completely untenable, absolutely. She’s been found by an independent inquiry of breaking the ministerial code and I think if you are found of breaking the ministerial code, your position is completely untenable.
‘I think it’s appalling the Prime Minister has decided to back her instead of sacking her, and that’s what he should have done.’
Asked about Luciana Berger, who quit the Labour Party last year over what she said was a ‘culture of bullying’, Ms Powell said: ‘The behaviour that Luciana was subject to was appalling, it was gross, it was grotesque and that’s why Keir Starmer’s been very clear that rooting out anti-Semitism and taking a tough line on those who are anti-Semitic, or indeed those who are acting in a bullying way, won’t have a place in the Labour party.
‘He’s very clear he would have sacked Priti Patel or any other Labour MP who’d been found wanting in that way. So it’s not that bullying can’t exist in all political parties, of course it can and it does, believe me it does, it’s how you deal with it.’