It’s very simple: Boris Johnson is too stupid to be a government minister, and Priti Patel is too selfish.
Mr Johnson has directly harmed the interests of a British citizen in Iran by providing false information about her to Parliament.
And Ms Patel seems to have been carrying out her own foreign policy – different to that of the Conservative government she is supposed to represent – and lying about it ludicrously.
As prime minister, Theresa May cannot simply accept their apologies.
They are a danger – not only to the citizens and stability of the United Kingdom but to Mrs May’s own government. If she can’t see that, then she must go as well.
Mr Johnson’s stupidity lay in shooting his mouth off in the House of Commons about matters he did not understand.
Referring to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a woman of joint UK-Iranian citizenship who has been detained in Iran since April 2016, he said that she had been “simply teaching people journalism”. As a result, she was hauled up before an Iranian court over the weekend and told she could face another five years in prison, with Mr Johnson’s words used as evidence against her.
In fact, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager with a charity and was in Iran to visit her family for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. She is not a journalist and has never trained them.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has written to Mr Johnson, demanding that he correct his mistake. She wrote:
“While your previous gaffes in the role of Foreign Secretary may have seriously damaged this country’s interests abroad, and caused grave offence to our international partners, this is – I believe – the first time that one of your comments has directly harmed the interests and prospects of a British national who instead should have been entitled to expect your support and aid.
“The responsibility to fix this latest crisis for Nazanin is yours and yours alone. You must immediately contact your counterparts in the Iranian authorities, admit to the gross error that you have made, and implore them not to make Nazanin the victim for your own personal ineptitude. You must then re-start the process of attempting to secure her release, one which I hope you have not irreparably damaged through your actions this week.”
Ms Thornberry also said Mr Johnson’s comment “reveals a fundamental lack of interest or concern for the details of Nazanin’s case and the consequences of your words”.
Mr Johnson has refused to retract his statement or apologise for it.
He thinks he can do whatever he likes.
If Mrs May allows him to get away with this, he’ll know he is right. And what will he do then?
Priti Patel’s case is even more ridiculous, if only in the way she has tried to justify it.
She reckons she travelled to Israel on a family holiday – defining this as a holiday for which she paid herself.
As family holidays go, it may have been the worst ever.
Instead of taking in the sights and soaking up the sun, Ms Patel took it upon herself to hold a series of meetings with Israeli dignitaries of varying ranks, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which government policy issues were discussed.
The visits were arranged by Tory peer Lord Polak – in advance? It seems unlikely that they were sorted out after Ms Patel arrived in Israel because there were so many of them – 12 in the list provided by Ms Patel in her latest statement.
At first Ms Patel claimed that the Foreign Secretary – Boris Johnson again – had known about her visit. But Mr Johnson was not told about the trip until after it had taken place and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were not informed of it in advance (although that organisation did become aware of it while it was underway).
While the FCO has said it is satisfied that UK interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit, it is clear that Ms Patel – who is Secretary of State for International Development – was not acting on behalf of the Conservative government of which she is – nominally – a party.
She had gone rogue and was conducting foreign affairs on her own behalf.
This is a gross breach of the Ministerial Code – she acted independently of the government and misled Parliament about what she had done.
Under the Ministerial Code, she had no choice other than to offer Mrs May her resignation – and Mrs May should have accepted it.
Instead, she apologised and Mrs May has accepted it.
But the apology only came after Ms Patel had been exposed as having lied to Parliament, as detailed above. Would she have done so, had the FCO not spoken up?
And how can we believe Ms Patel’s account of events at these meetings?
We know we have a government that works for its own benefit and not that of the country. Now we are seeing ministers who won’t even act in the interests of the government, but only for themselves.
This is intolerable.
Mrs May wants to hide away until public outrage at these events blows itself out. She should not be allowed to do so.
As Prime Minister, it is her duty to maintain discipline and responsibility among her ministers.
If she cannot manage that, then she should resign – and call an election so the people of the UK can install a competent government.
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