Another day, another set of allegations against Priti Patel. When the Home Secretary’s top civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam resigned over the weekend, he used a public statement to accuse Patel of intimidating behaviour towards staff. Since then, more allegations have surfaced over her behaviour dating back to roles in other departments. Today The Sun reports claims of bullying by Patel while at DfID with an unnamed senior official now allegedly planning to testify against her in the upcoming employment tribunal and Cabinet Office inquiry.
While Patel denies any wrongdoing, there’s now talk in Westminster of whether Patel can stay in her role given that this story looks set to run and run. However, those bracing themselves for her departure look set to be disappointed. What the past few days have revealed is how keen No. 10 and the rest of the Tory party is to keep Patel in place. The Prime Minister has described Patel as ‘fantastic’, No. 10 has poured cold water on speculation she could lose her job while Conservative MPs have been tripping over one another to heap praise on the Home Secretary. One party insider gripes that were another minister facing these allegations, they wouldn’t have be given such special treatment.
As I say in today’s i paper, to understand why the No. 10 operation is at such pains to protect Patel from criticism, one needs to understand why she was appointed in the first place. Although it left many liberal Conservatives aghast, Patel’s appointment was key to sending a message to the Tories’ new electoral base. While a Tory colleague once described Patel as ‘more right wing than Thatcher’, there’s a sense in No. 10 that Patel is more in tune with the country on law and order than the bulk of the Westminster bubble. That