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Bullying inquiry head quits as Boris Johnson backs Priti Patel

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

Government standards adviser out after PM sticks by embattled home secretary

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

Boris Johnson’s adviser on ministerial standards has resigned after the prime minister backed Home Secretary Priti Patel over a bullying inquiry. 

Alex Allan found that Patel’s behaviour had breached the code, but she looks set to hold on to her cabinet role after Johnson said she has his “full confidence”.

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The home secretary today said that she was sorry “that my behaviour in the past has upset people”, after a Whitehall investigation found that she had “not always met the high standards” required of ministers. 

Allan said that while “it is for the prime minister to make a judgement on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the ministerial code”, he felt “that it is right that I should now resign from my position as the prime minister's independent adviser on the code”.

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”.

The report concluded 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”.

Priti Patel Home Office bullying Boris Johnson

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