Priti Patel isn’t just quiet. She’s missing.

Priti Patel
John Ranson

As much as many of us would like to see Priti Patel nowhere near frontline politics, people are growing increasingly puzzled as to why she currently seems to be, er, nowhere near frontline politics.

 

As home secretary, Patel bears ultimate responsibility within the government for topics such as law and order and border control. Both of these areas have been big talking points during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Yet Patel hasn’t appeared at any of the government’s daily briefings so far.

“We can’t hide away from it forever”

One of the government departments under Patel’s supervision is the passport office. There are reports that staff there have been told to stop staying at home and get back to work. Computer systems and security issues make it difficult for passport office staff to work from home. A scientific adviser from the Home Office reportedly told staff that 80% of people would contract Covid-19 and “we can’t hide away from it forever”.

Yet Patel seems to be doing her best to hide. She’s turned down repeated requests to appear before the home affairs select committee. For example, the committee chair – Labour’s Yvette Cooper – wrote to Patel on 3 April. She wanted to know why there were no regulations regarding people arriving in the UK from coronavirus hotspots like New York or Hubei Province in China. Patel has offered private briefings but has so far refused to give evidence publicly. She finally indicated that she’ll consider doing so “towards the end of the month”. But she used her response to bemoan the “increasingly adversarial tone” of communications from the committee. She suggested that discussion of “operationally sensitive, and sometimes classified” material was behind her reluctance to appear in public.

Dodging scrutiny

Scram News has offered some possible reasons why it thinks Patel might be keeping her head down. It reckons she’s trying to avoid any discussion of the report into bullying claims against her. It also feels she’ll face criticism of her previous comments about ‘low-skilled’ workers, given that many such people are now demonstrably keeping the country going. Furthermore, Scram News thinks Patel may be having to backtrack on her views about the government’s responsibility for poverty. Or it could just be that she knows she’s rubbish at her job and is worried that everyone else will realise that if she attempts to do it in public.

We don’t have to like our politicians to want to see them do a good job. Most of the current cabinet inspire very little confidence. But some of them at least look like they’re trying. Patel just looks like she’s not remotely interested.

Featured image by John Ranson for The Canary

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  • Show Comments
    1. British ‘government’ is demonstrably no longer fit for purpose. Governance from the Home Secretary is literally invisible – during a pandemic. I think we’re seeing final evidence that not only whatever change is needed, but what actually needs to be done, right now, in response to a crisis, is not going to come from politicians. We’re going to have to do it ourselves. The political class is demonstrably unfit for purpose. Time to look beyond them. Time to mobilise in our own interests. This is a shower. They can’t even turn up for work.

    2. I am somewhat concerned to see the PM and the Home secretary likely shut away. Both had favoured Herd Immunity, rather than Lock-Down, albeit under different circumstances. Herd Immunity was the recommended solution as it always has been for viruses. Lock-Down will succeed only in trashing the UK economy. It’s only benefit will be for the rich who can buy lots of bankrupt companies cheap.

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