Boris Johnson 'absolutely' has full confidence in Priti Patel amid bullying allegations

1 March 2020, 18:26

Boris Johnson has stood by Priti Patel amid allegations she bullied a senior civil servant
Boris Johnson has stood by Priti Patel amid allegations she bullied a senior civil servant. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The Prime Minister has said he "absolutely" has full confidence Priti Patel following allegations she led a campaign to oust the Home Office's chief civil servant.

Boris Johnson told reporters during a visit to Public Health England in North London: "I absolutely do have confidence in Priti Patel.

"I think she is a fantastic Home Secretary.

"It is never an easy job, as anyone who has been Home Secretary will testify. It is one of the toughest jobs in Government.

"There is a big, big task ahead of us now. We are delivering, at last, a new immigration system for this country, a points-based immigration system.

"That will take a lot of work by the Home Office, a fantastic department."

Mr Johnson said: "I want to make one thing absolutely clear.

"I am full of admiration for our civil service and the job that they do.

Sir Philip Rutnam resigned yesterday
Sir Philip Rutnam resigned yesterday. Picture: PA

"We politicians could not begin to accomplish things without the fantastic, absolutely brilliant alpha minds in the civil service.

"We depend on them."

It comes after Sir Philip Rutnam, the Home Office's top civil servant, who quit saying he was resigning to "protect the health, safety and wellbeing" of the 35,000 staff in his department following accusations of bullying against the Home Secretary.

Sir Philip's resignation also led to calls from opposition MPs and the senior public servants' trade union for the Prime Minister to put a stop to what they claim is a campaign by his chief adviser Dominic Cummings to undermine the civil service.

It comes two weeks after Sajid Javid quit as Chancellor when the PM ordered him to fire his team of aides.

Ms Patel has been accused of bullying
Ms Patel has been accused of bullying. Picture: PA

In his statement, Sir Philip said the campaign against him included "false" claims that he had briefed the media against the Home Secretary.

He said: "The Home Secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office.

"I regret I do not believe her. She has not made the effort I would expect to dissociate herself from the comments.

"Even despite this campaign I was willing to effect a reconciliation with the Home Secretary.

"But despite my efforts to engage with her, Priti Patel has made no effort to engage with me to discuss this.

"I believe these events give me very strong grounds to claim constructive, unfair dismissal and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts.

Mr Johnson has said he has confidence in his Home Secretary
Mr Johnson has said he has confidence in his Home Secretary. Picture: PA

Sir Philip said his experience "has been extreme but I consider there is evidence it was part of a wider pattern of behaviour.

"One of my duties as Permanent Secretary was to protect the health, safety and well-being of our 35,000 people.

"This created tension with the Home Secretary, and I have encouraged her to change her behaviours.

"I have received allegations that her conduct has included shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands - behaviour that created fear and that needed some bravery to call out.

"I know that resigning in this way will have serious implications for me personally - the Cabinet Office offered me a financial settlement that would have avoided this outcome.

"I am aware that there will continue to be briefing against me now I have made this decision, but I am hopeful that at least it may not now be directed towards my colleagues or the department.

"This has been a very difficult decision but I hope that my stand may help in maintaining the quality of Government in our country - which includes hundreds of thousands of civil servants, loyally dedicated to delivering this Government's agenda."