In the weeks before the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic became clear, Priti Patel was the biggest story in Westminster. In March, her most senior Home Office civil servant, Philip Rutnam, resigned and when doing so read out a statement in which he said he had been subject to a 'vicious and orchestrated campaign' against him after he challenged the alleged mistreatment of civil servants by Patel.
To deal with the furore that followed, a Cabinet Office inquiry into allegations of bullying by the Home Secretary began. It concluded some time ago yet nothing had been made public until now. That is now changing. The report has found that Patel’s behaviour could be described as 'bullying' and that she was in breach of the ministerial code. However, it concludes these actions may have been 'unintentional'.
However, anyone hoping Johnson will heavily distance himself from his Home Secretary or even expel her from his Cabinet will likely be left disappointed. Johnson has concluded that given it could have been unintentional, Patel has not broken the code. The author of the report – Sir Alex Allan – has now resigned.
More widely, it's clear Johnson's government continues to back her. As well as warm words from Matt Hancock on the morning round, social media is flooded with Conservative MPs tripping over one another to praise their colleague. Tom Tugendhat says Patel is 'hard working, determined and has been very kind to many' while 2019 Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison says on entering parliament, Patel 'has been one of the kindest, most supportive people I've met'. With Johnson telling MPs over WhatsApp to 'form a square around the Pritser', Patel's position is secure.