British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands by her Home Secretary on Friday despite an investigator’s conclusion that she bullied members of her staff
A report said Interior Minister Priti Patel had not met the standards required by a government minister and concluded that her behavior fits the definition of bullying.
Government ministers found to have violated the Ministerial Code are generally expected to retire. But the government said the prime minister had “full confidence” in Patel and “considers this case closed.”
Johnson’s adviser to Ministerial Standards, Alex Allan, who led Patel’s investigation, stepped down and said he could not continue in his job.
“I recognize that it is up to the Prime Minister to decide whether actions by a minister constitute a breach of the Ministerial Code,” Allan said. “But I feel it is right that I now resign from my position as the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on the Code.”
Patel has been under investigation since March after several officials accused her of bullying. Home Office chief Philip Rutnam resigned that month, saying Patel had laid off staff and promoted an environment of fear in the department. She denied the allegations.
The study’s findings were released Friday after months of delay by Johnson’s office.
Allan concluded that Patel “has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code to treat its officials with care and respect.”
He said there were “occasional shouts and swords” that had disturbed people, though he accepted that Patel might not intend to have that effect.
“Her approach to apartments has constituted behavior that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact that individuals feel,” Allan said. “To that extent, her conduct has been contrary to the Code of Conduct, albeit unintentional.”
He said that Patel also “rightly in many cases” felt that there was a lack of support and responsiveness from senior officials.
Patel said she was “sorry that my behavior in the past has disturbed people,” even though she stopped by briefly apologizing for the behavior itself.
“I’m here to make an unreserved apology today and I’m sorry if I’ve disturbed people in any way,” she told the BBC. “It was completely unintentional.”
In a separate statement, Patel said, “I acknowledge that I am direct and at times have been frustrated.”
“I am very grateful for the hard work of thousands of officials who are helping to reach the government’s agenda,” she said.
Opposition politicians accused the prime minister of tolerating bullying. The prime minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, insisted that Johnson take the allegations of bullying “very seriously.”
“He hates bullying,” Stratton said. “It’s not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully.”
She was fired as international development secretary by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, for holding unauthorized meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials during a private trip to the country.