Another week, another Cabinet minister heads for the exit. Priti Patel’s departure means Theresa May now faces another difficult decision in choosing who should replace her. But was she right to get rid of Patel? The newspaper verdict is unanimous:
‘We like Priti Patel,’ says the Sun: ‘But she had to go’. After all, ‘fierce ambition’ is one thing – it’s quite another to hold ‘unauthorised meetings in Israel’ which show clearly her ‘over-confidence’ and also ‘no little naivety’. Priti is indeed a ‘loss to the Cabinet’, the paper says; she is a ‘working-class Thatcherite’ who, crucially for the Tory party, remains ‘in touch with ethnic minority voters’. But her decision to hold meetings with Israeli officials behind the back of the Government left Theresa May with only one choice. ‘We hope Priti learns from her mistakes’, concludes the Sun, which says it hopes that she won’t be left ‘languishing’ on the backbenches for long.
Theresa May didn’t ditch Priti Patel out of choice, says the Guardian – she did it ‘because she had to’. ‘Patel’s freelance but secret Middle East foreign policy’ was little more than ‘institutionalised insubordination’. Yet while the Prime Minister initially ‘bent over backwards’ not to sack Patel, it became obvious that a failure to act ‘would have signalled the absolute collapse of her authority’. Many on the Tory benches are already furious at the gaffe by Boris Johnson, in which he said wrongly that a jailed British-Iranian citizen was ‘teaching people journalism’ on a vacation to Iran. If May had failed to act against Patel as well, she ‘could not have survived such a high-profile display of weakness’ – particularly given the obvious lack of support for Patel among Tory MPs. There was a time that May ‘seemed a lucky politician’. ‘She does not seem so lucky now’, says the Guardian. There is, however, still some hope for the Prime Minister, at least for as long as she remains ‘the least worst option for the Tories,’ concludes the paper.
Some are suggesting Priti Patel was ‘picked on’ because she is a ‘Brexiteer’. This misses the point, says the Times – Patel’s ‘repeated dissembling’ and ‘original sins’ meant only one thing: her position in the Cabinet was ‘untenable’. ‘The die was cast before the cover-up’, says the Times. Yet although Theresa May was clearly initially reluctant to act, the Times says ’at least Mrs May has shown she still has the mettle to remove ministers when they leave her with no alternative’. May shouldn’t stop here though. The Times suggests that the Prime Minister should resist the temptation merely to tinker with her Cabinet again, as she did in the wake of Michael Fallon's departure, and instead opt for a ‘full reshuffle’. After all, Boris’s gaffe was an ‘even more serious mistake than Ms Patel’s’, and whether or not anything is proven against him, Damian Green’s ‘safe pair of hands…look grubby’. ‘It is time for a proper clear-out’, concludes the paper.