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Boris Johnson to back Priti Patel after leaked bullying inquiry

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Priti Patel arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Office.
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Priti Patel arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Office.
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Priti Patel arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Office.

Prime minister set to stick by home secretary after inquiry finds she broke ministerial code

One-Minute Read Joe Evans
Friday, November 20, 2020 - 9:59am

Priti Patel looks set to hold on to her cabinet role despite an official inquiry concluding that she did break the ministerial code.

The home secretary is expected to apologise today, after a Whitehall investigation found that she had “not always met the high standards” required of ministers. 

Sources familiar with the probes told The Guardian that it had “found evidence that civil servants were treated poorly by Patel, as well as compelling evidence of bullying”.

Boris Johnson is the sole arbiter of the ministerial code and is expected to reject calls for her resignation.

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The prime minister is likely to note that the report’s conclusion was that her actions may have been “unintentional” and “its criticism of senior civil servants for not raising their concerns directly with her before they became public”, The Times reports.

It is also understood that Johnson will not publish the report, which was launched after details were made public in February about Patel’s “behaviour towards senior staff in the Home Office and previous departments in which she had worked”, the paper adds.

Patel has denied allegations of bullying, with allies describing her as a “demanding” boss but not a “bully”, The Guardian reports.

The dispute over Patel’s behaviour was triggered in March, when Philip Rutnam, the former Home Office permanent secretary, resigned his role after what he described as a “vicious and orchestrated campaign” against him for raising concerns about her actions.

An employment tribunal has been launched into Rutnam’s departure, while reports have also described how a “senior Home Office official collapsed after a fractious meeting with Patel”, the paper adds.

It is also alleged that Patel “humiliated civil servants in front of others” while she was a minister in the Department for International Development 2017. A civil servant in the Department for Work and Pensions also received a £25,000 payout after she claimed that she had been bullied by Patel in 2015.

The timing of the inquiry leak is not ideal for the government. As Politico’s Alex Wickham notes, “it’s anti-bullying week”.

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