Boris Johnson ‘asked for Priti Patel bullying report to be made palatable’, Whitehall source claims
Boris Johnson reportedly asked Sir Alex Allan to make an independent report into the conduct of Home Secretary Priti Patel more “palatable”.
Ms Patel was found to have broken the ministerial code by bullying members of her staff, but despite recommendations for her resignation, the prime minister allowed her to keep her job, saying he “does not believe that Priti Patel is a bully”.
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He further argued that the Home Secretary did not breach the ministerial code because she was “unaware of the impact that she had”.
The claim made that Ms Patel was unaware of her behaviour, which was part of Sir Alex’s findings, was disputed by Sir Philip Rutnam, who resigned as permanent secretary at the Home Office in February and is pursuing a case of constructive dismissal. Sir Alex was asked to compile the report in March following Sir Philip’s decision.
In a statement, Sir Philip said he had not been asked to contribute to the inquiry, adding it was “not correct” that the Home Secretary was unaware of her behaviour.
Resignations and claims of interference
As a result of Mr Johnson choosing to overrule the findings of the report, Sir Alex resigned as the independent adviser on ministerial standards on Friday. He concluded that the Home Secretary’s conduct had fallen far below what is expected of government ministers, and included examples of Ms Patel “shouting and swearing” at civil servants.
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Since then, the BBC has reported claims made by an unnamed Whitehall source that Sir Alex was asked to make his findings “more palatable” but had resisted pressure from No.10 to do so.
A Downing Street spokesperson told i: “As you would expect, the Prime Minister spoke to Sir Alex Allan to further his understanding of the report. Sir Alex’s conclusions are entirely his own.”
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in central London on 22 September 2020 (Photo: Getty)
Sir David Normington, a former Home Office chief, has since spoken about the furore, branding Ms Patel’s behaviour “completely unacceptable” and saying, “you shouldn’t have bullies in government”.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, the ex-permanent secretary said: “The system depends on the prime minister standing up for standards in public life and taking action when a minister breaches those standards.”
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He added that there had been “no acknowledgement” from No.10 that Ms Patel was found “have bullied staff, possibly in three departments – not just in the home office”.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a friend and colleague of Ms Patel, appeared on the same programme to defend the Home Secretary, saying she was “very direct… and incredibly passionate”.
Ms Patel apologised on Friday, saying: “Any upset I have caused was completely unintentional.”