Calls for independent inquiry into Patel’s behaviour as evidence mounts up

Priti Patel and Boris Johnson: allies against the civil service?

The Cabinet Office has launched an inquiry into whether Priti Patel has breached the ministerial code by bullying civil servants under her.

But MPs including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are demanding an independent inquisition as more evidence against her comes to light.

For example, Sir Philip Rutnam’s claim that he was offered a “financial settlement” to keep him from speaking out about the “vicious and orchestrated” plot against him may be validated by claims that another civil servant was driven to a suicide attempt by Ms Patel’s behaviour towards her at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The person involved apparently was shouted at, told to get lost and dismissed from her job in the minister’s private office because Ms Patel “doesn’t like your face”, according to legal correspondence seen by the BBC. She took an overdose of prescription medicines and had to be taken home by her husband, where she attempted to kill herself, the legal correspondence said.

The victim later brought a complaint for unfair dismissal, harassment, victimisation and discrimination, but the DWP hushed it up with a £25,000 settlement without admitting liability.

Worse than this is the claim that Boris Johnson himself has given support to ministers who wish to smear top civil servants.

Dave Penman, head of the senior civil servants union, the FDA, said Johnson and his closest aides have “ripped up the rule book” that ensured the ministers do not attack civil servants.

The allegation means it would be impossible to trust the finding of a Cabinet Office inquiry which could be influenced by Johnson.

Meanwhile the pressure is building against Ms Patel, with calls increasing for her to be suspended as a minister while her behaviour is investigated.

This is a power struggle at the heart of government.

Or so it seems to This Writer.

On one side, we have a civil service staffed by experts on government who know that politics is “the art of the possible” and are bound to advise MPs on how much of their plans are both possible and advisable.

On the other: a rabble of hard-right Tory authoritarians whose belief that their orders should be obeyed – no matter how insane – has been compared with fascism.

You’d better pray that the side of reason wins.

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  1. Stu March 3, 2020 at 9:11 am - Reply

    The laziest MP will undoubtebly claim that it’s her gender or ethnicity that’s being picked on rather than the fact that she is an unpleasant person based on the accounts so far,

  2. Franklin Percival March 3, 2020 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    I seem to remember David Cameron saying some 8 years ago, “Wait until you see what we will do to the BBC.”

    Before that I am sure I recall ‘Return to Ranks’ Smith giggling that if people knew what the tories planned, they would be horrified.

    I didn’t doubt either, and I am horrified by this return of fascism.

  3. kateuk March 4, 2020 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Ofc the government are now claiming that “dark forces” are at work to discredit ms Patel. They will whitewash it all. But remember that senior civil servants are usually quite right wing (despite claims that they are politically impartial) and the fact that the government drove one to resign is quite telling.

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