UK PM Johnson backs minister over bullying report but adviser quits

By Michael Holden LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday backed one of his most senior ministers after a damning inquiry into allegations that she bullied her staff concluded she had broken rules, including shouting and swearing at them. Johnson's defence of Home Secretary Priti Patel prompted the author of the report, independent adviser Alex Allan, to resign. Patel had not met the standards set under Britain's Ministerial Code which states ministers should treat officials with respect, Allan had concluded.

Reuters November 21, 2020 01:11:48 IST
UK PM Johnson backs minister over bullying report but adviser quits

UK PM Johnson backs minister over bullying report but adviser quits

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday backed one of his most senior ministers after a damning inquiry into allegations that she bullied her staff concluded she had broken rules, including shouting and swearing at them.

Johnson's defence of Home Secretary Priti Patel prompted the author of the report, independent adviser Alex Allan, to resign.

Patel had not met the standards set under Britain's Ministerial Code which states ministers should treat officials with respect, Allan had concluded. Ministers usually step down if they are found to be in breach of the code.

A government statement said Johnson judged the code had not been breached, however, saying that concerns had not been raised at the time and that Patel was unaware of the impact of her actions. She apologised for any upset she may have caused.

"The prime minister has full confidence in the home secretary and considers this matter now closed," the statement said.

A former senior official Philip Rutnam, whose resignation and accusations of unfair dismissal in February prompted the inquiry, said concerns about Patel had been repeatedly raised to her and that he had not been asked to give evidence.

"As early as August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised that she must not shout and swear at staff," Rutnam said in a statement.

The issue comes at a difficult time for Johnson, who is trying to reset his government after his top adviser Dominic Cummings left Downing Street last week. His leadership and judgment has also been questioned over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Patel was a leading supporter of Brexit before the 2016 referendum and is popular in the ruling Conservative Party. She is the minister responsible for crime, security and immigration where she has advocated a hardline stance.

The daughter of immigrants herself, she previously quit as aid minister in 2017 because she held undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.

RIGHT TO RESIGN

Immediately after Johnson cleared Patel, Allan quit and opponents accused the prime minister of giving the green light to bullying. Johnson himself had written in the foreword to the Ministerial Code's latest version that "there must be no bullying and no harassment".

"I recognise that it is for the prime minister to make a judgment on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code," Allan said. "But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position."

Johnson's government has had an uneasy relationship with senior officials, with several leaving their posts since his election win last December.

Patel had been accused of demeaning her staff, prompting Johnson to launch an inquiry in March to establish the facts.

In a summary of his advice, Allan found that Patel had become "justifiably in many instances" frustrated by officials' lack of support, and this had "manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing".

"Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals," Allan's advice said. "To that extent her behaviour has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally."

Patel said it had never been her intention to upset anyone.

"I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people," she said. "I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his support.

Colleagues rallied round her, describing her as kind and courteous.

But opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said he would have sacked her.

"Yet again, the prime minister has been found wanting when his leadership has been tested," Starmer said in a statement.

(Writing by Sarah Young and Michael Holden; Editing by Alistair Smout, Guy Faulconbridge, Angus MacSwan and Catherine Evans)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Global Markets: Stocks ascend to record on economic recovery, vaccine outlook
Business

Global Markets: Stocks ascend to record on economic recovery, vaccine outlook

By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gauge of global stocks hit a record and oil prices jumped on Monday as the newest positive data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine and signs of economic recovery in Asia boosted sentiment. U.S. stocks advanced, with the Dow Industrials setting a record as it neared the 30,000 mark for the first time, after pharma company Moderna said its prospective vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing the illness, which has crushed economies across the globe

Airbnb IPO filing shows third-quarter earnings beating virus with cost cuts, new focus
Business

Airbnb IPO filing shows third-quarter earnings beating virus with cost cuts, new focus

By Anirban Sen and Joshua Franklin (Reuters) - Airbnb Inc's initial public offering (IPO) registration showed on Monday that the home rental startup turned a profit in the third quarter despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as it gears up for one of the most anticipated stock market debuts in recent years. The filing, published ahead of Airbnb's anticipated stock market debut in December, showed a dramatic recovery in its fortunes, after the coronavirus outbreak dragged down its core home rental business during the first half of the year. The slump forced it to lay off 25% of its workforce in May, suspend marketing activities for the year and seek $2 billion (£1.5 billion) emergency funding from investors, including Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners, at a valuation of $18 billion

Biden says U.S., allies need to set global trade rules to counter China's influence
Business

Biden says U.S., allies need to set global trade rules to counter China's influence

By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday the United States needed to negotiate with allies to set global trading rules to counter China's growing influence but declined to say whether he would join a new China-backed Asian trade pact signed on Sunday.