LONDON: UK PM Boris Johnson on Friday backed Priti Patel, one of his most senior ministers, after a damning inquiry into allegations that she bullied her staff concluded she had broken rules, including shouting and swearing at them. Johnson’s defence of the Indian-origin home secretary prompted the author of the report, independent adviser Alex Allan, to resign.
Patel had not met the standards set under Britain’s ministerial code which states ministers should treat officials with respect, Allan had concluded. Ministers usually step down if they are found to be in breach of the code. However, a government statement said Johnson judged the code had not been breached, saying that concerns had not been raised at the time and that Patel was unaware of the impact of her actions. “The PM has full confidence in home secretary and considers this matter now closed,” it said.
Patel had been accused of demeaning her staff, prompting Johnson to launch an inquiry in March to establish the facts. In a summary of his advice, Allan found that Patel had become “justifiably in many instances” frustrated by her department’s lack of support, and this had “manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing”. “Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying…,” Allan’s advice said.
Patel thanked PM for his support and said, “I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people. I acknowledge that I have at times got frustrated.” Colleagues rallied round her, describing her as kind. However, Keir Starmer, the leader of Labour Party, said he would have sacked her. Patel had to quit as aid minister in 2017 because she held undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.