Standards Chief Sir Alex Allan has resigned after Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to sack Home Secretary Priti Patel when an inquiry found her guilty of harassment and bullying, Business Insider reports.
Investigations by Sir Alex found out that the Home Secretary had broken the code governing ministers’ behavior. However, Johnson was quick to back Patel. The PM said he rejected the findings of the inquiry and did not think Patel was a bully. He also added that he still had full confidence in her abilities.
Patel has since apologized while claiming that she did not receive the needed support from her department. She said nobody in her department pointed out areas where she might have acted wrongly. She explained that while there were no excuses for her conduct, they were completely unintentional. She admitted she might have upset some people in the course of carrying on with her duties.
Johnson had tasked Sir Alex with investigating the allegations against Patel. The results of investigations by Sir Alex proved that Patel had indeed broken the code. However, when the results of the inquiry were presented to Johnson, he decided to adopt a different stance and back Patel. Traditionally, it is expected that ministers who break the code should resign.
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman revealed that Johnson was no fan of bullying. However, she said the Prime Minister does not believe that Patel is a bully due to mitigating circumstances outlined in Sir Alex’s report. He also referenced Patel’s unreserved apologies that have since been offered as grounds for his opposing stance, the BBC writes.
Immediately Johnson made his opinion known on his report’s findings, Sir Alex promptly turned in his resignation letter.
“I recognize 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,” Sir Alex said. “But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position as the prime minister’s independent advisor on the code.”
Investigations by Sir Alex took him around the actions and behaviors of the Home Secretary through three different government departments, including the Home Office, Work and Pensions, and International Development.
His conclusion – Patel was in breach of the high standards expected of a minister, which included treating the civil servants under her department with the respect and consideration they duly deserved. He referenced incidents of swearing and rude mocking remarks that Patel was guilty of.
He said her actions, in most cases, could be interpreted as sheer acts of bullying that impacted adversely on colleagues and subordinates. Sir Alex concluded that whether her actions were intentional or not, Patel had breached the ministerial code.
The report found out that no one stood up to the Home Secretary concerning her bullying tendencies. Hence, she was unaware of the negative impact that her attitude was causing to employees, which she would have taken the step to address.
Johnson initiated the inquiry following the resignation of a top civil servant at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam. He alleged that Patel had created an atmosphere of fear in the department.
Rutnam dismissed statements credited to Patel wherein she stated that nobody informed her of her bullying behavior. He insisted that Patel was approached on numerous occasions to retract her steps and treat staff with respect and consideration – a piece of advice she clearly did not dignify with a response. He said between September 2019 and February 2020, he had advised Patel on the need to respect staff.
Rutnam, who is also suing the government, said he was not a part of Sir Alex’s inquiry. Many have since criticized the stance of the Prime Minister. Labor Leader Sir Keir Starmer said the PM has once again proved his ineffectual leadership skill. He said he would have sacked the Home Secretary as recommended by Sir Alex.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the prime minister showed through his actions that he was acting on double standards. He said the PM indicated he had a separate rule for everyone – one for those in his good books and the other for just about everyone else.