Home Secretary Priti Patel faces calls for her to resign following a fall-out at the top of the Home Office.
Philip Rutnam, the department’s most senior civil servant, quit on Saturday after accusing Patel of orchestrating a “vicious” campaign against him, of lying about her involvement in it and of creating a climate of fear among her officials.
Labour has ramped up the pressure on the under-fire home secretary, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggesting she could be forced to resign.
He added: “One of the ways the prime minister could go forward is to have an independent investigation but during that period you’d have to suspend the home secretary whilst that went on.”
“When you get a civil servant going public like this, it’s unprecedented”@johnmcdonnellMP tells @SophyRidgeSky Priti Patel is on the way out of Cabinet, following explosive allegations levelled against her by Home Office boss Sir Philip Rutnam#Ridge : https://t.co/7B8NSPlR4a pic.twitter.com/IPPFlzVndk
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) March 1, 2020
Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer also called on Patel to explain to MPs the explosive allegations levelled against her by Rutnam.
Starmer said: “The home secretary has a duty to come to parliament on Monday to explain the allegations made about her own conduct.”
The shadow Brexit secretary called for cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill to start “an immediate investigation” into the circumstances surrounding Rutnam’s departure.
In his statement on Saturday, Rutnam 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.
“I believe these events give me very strong grounds to claim constructive, unfair dismissal and I will be pursuing that claim in the courts.”
Meanwhile, health secretary, Matt Hancock defended Patel on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme:
And Conservative ally Nusrat Ghani MP, who was sacked as a minister by Johnson in February, said the criticism of Patel had sexist overtones.
Their comments come almost 24 hours after Sir Philip’s sensational resignation, a period during which no minister spoke out in defence of the former international development secretary.
Asked on BBC Radio 5 Live whether he was accusing Rutnam of lying, Hancock said: “I’m not getting into that.”
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