Priti Patel faces allegations of bullying staff in third department

Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing allegations of bullying staff in a third government department.

A senior official at the Department for International Development (DfID) reported a “tsunami” of allegations of abuse by officials in her private office when she was secretary of state, BBC2’s Newsnight reported.

The claims follow the resignation at the weekend of the top official at the Home Office, Philip Rutnam, who quit accusing her of bullying subordinates.

A former aide at the Department for Works and Pensions is also reported to have received a £25,000 payout from the government after claiming she was bullied by Patel when she was employment minister.

A spokesperson for Patel said: “The Home Secretary categorically denies all of these allegations.”

Read on...

Newsnight quoted a Tory source as saying there was a “concerted effort” by sections of the Civil Service to undermine Patel and that “dark forces” were trying to influence a Cabinet Office inquiry into her conduct.

The latest claims relate to the period around 2017 when Patel was sacked by Theresa May as international development secretary over unauthorised contacts with the Israeli government.

Following her dismissal, a senior figure in DfID was said to have approached staff in her private offices about allegations that they had heard of bullying.

The senior figure was said to have been told of multiple claims of staff being humiliated and coming under heavy pressure in emails – similar to the allegations made about Patel’s conduct at the Home Office.

The senior figure then went to see another senior figure in DfID and urged them to contact the then cabinet secretary – the late Jeremy Heyward – so that her conduct recorded was “in the system” if she ever returned to government.

Although the person making the claims has not been named, they were said to be prepared to give evidence to the Cabinet Office inquiry currently under way into allegations she broke the ministerial code.

Patel
Philip Rutnam resigned after accusing Patel of bullying (Helen William/PA)

The individual concerned was also said to be ready to give evidence in support of Rutnam – who is claiming constructive dismissal – if his case goes to an industrial tribunal.

A Tory source, quoted by Newsnight, hit back, saying: “What we are seeing is a concerted effort by certain sections of the Civil Service to undermine a home secretary trying to deliver what people want on crime and immigration.

“It is deeply disturbing that dark forces are trying to influence the findings of a Cabinet Office inquiry.

On Tuesday, Patel expressed her “regret” at the decision of Rutnam to quit and urged staff in the Home Office to come together as “one team”.

In a joint email to staff written with Rutnam’s interim successor Shona Dunn, she insisted they cared about the wellbeing of all employees.

They expressed their gratitude to the staff for their continuing hard work and “commitment to deliver the government’s priorities”.

“We both deeply value the work that every person in this department does and care about the well-being of all our staff. It is therefore a time for us all to come together as one team,” they wrote.

“We also recognise the importance of candour, confidentiality and courtesy in building trust and confidence between ministers and civil servants.

“Both of us are fully committed to making sure the professionalism you would expect to support this is upheld.”

Boris Johnson has expressed his full confidence in Patel, who he promoted to one of the great offices of state after she had previously been sacked from the Cabinet by Theresa May.

However, some Tory MPs have questioned how much longer she can carry on in the job, while Labour has complained the inquiry into her conduct – to be carried out by the Cabinet Office – is not fully independent.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us