Priti Patel: Bully? Or just ‘expressed frustrations’

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been found to have broken the ministerial code after an inquiry by the Cabinet Office. However, the Prime Minister has the final say on the matter and Boris Johnson has overruled the bullying report. This has led Standards Chief Sir Alex Allan to resign in protest. 

The accusations against Priti Patel span three departments including Patel’s most recent department of the Home Office, whereby one accusation reported that a Home Office official collapsed after an intense meeting with Patel. When Patel was Secretary of International Development she resigned due to not disclosing meetings with Israeli government officials while on a private holiday in Israel. This clearly shows that Patel is no stranger to breaking the rules, however, in this case, she did follow the expectations held for those who break the ministerial code by resigning.   

Sir Alex Allen went on to release a statement about the report, stating: ‘her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.’ Allen’s statement begs the question: how should politicians behave? Especially those in positions of power such as the Prime Minister or a Secretary of State like Priti Patel. 

In this case, there are guidelines on how ministers should act including a definition of what the ministerial code considers to be bullying. It defines bullying as ‘intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down.’ It also defines how ministers should behave, stating: ‘ministers should be professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect.’

Priti Patel is also the first known case of a minister not resigning after breaking ministerial code which does not bode well for the reputation of Boris Johnson’s conservative government. Especially since it is the same government which allowed advisor Dominic Cummings to break lockdown rules, effectively putting the advisor above the law. The high level of controversy that the conservative party have been subject to may not bode well for the next general election unless it is forgotten.  

It is fair to say that bullying is unacceptable, therefore Priti Patel’s behaviour is unacceptable. Despite Patel’s recent apology over the way she ‘expressed frustrations’ towards staff, Patel should still resign or face consequences such as a demotion.

As for Boris Johnson, it is unacceptable for a Prime Minister to dismiss important reports such as the one that found Priti Patel guilty of breaking the ministerial code. Dismissing serious reports sets a bad precedent for abuses of power within the government. 

Ultimately, Members of Parliament in the UK are paid around £80,000 a year as of 2020. They also represent the people that voted them in. To be acting in such an unprofessional way is a disgrace to the UK Government and its people. Politicians ranging from MPs to the Prime Minister should act professionally and treat their fellow members, as well as the public, with the highest level of respect. Otherwise, resignation must remain the norm for those who break the rules in order to maintain the integrity of the UK Government.

Cameron Thomas      

Image source: Wikimedia Commons