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New developments came hours after the Cabinet Office launched a formal inquiry into Priti Patel after the Home Secretary was accused of “lying and bullying” by her department’s top civil servant.
Priti Patel has come under increased pressure to resign in the wake of fresh claims that the home secretary was prone to mistreating and bullying her staff, reports the BBC.
According to legal correspondence cited by the outlet, a former aide to Priti Patel – the employment minister at the time of the events – allegedly received a £25,000 government payout after threatening to come forward with claims of having been bullied by the official.
The report states Patel was accused of displaying “unprovoked aggression” and shouting at the former aide before firing her because she did not “like [her] face”, according to comments ascribed to her line manager and a colleague.
The correspondence also alleges the woman took an overdose of prescription medicine following the incident in October 2015.
The report says that after losing her job, the former aide launched a formal complaint of “bullying and harassment” against both the department and Patel.
The purported victim of the mistreatment – a junior employee at the DWP – is reported as having attempted to kill herself earlier, after reporting bullying allegations referring to a different individual in 2014, before Patel took on the ministerial post.
The BBC writes that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) did not admit liability at the time, with the case never coming before a tribunal.
Priti Patel – who was international development secretary from July 2016 until November 2017 – has been under heightened scrutiny amid a flurry of disturbing reports alleging she “belittled staff” at both the Home Office and DfID.
The fresh reports come on the heels of a formal inquiry launched by the Cabinet Office into earlier claims that Priti Patel had mistreated her permanent secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam.
Rutnam ended his 33-year career and quit on Saturday, 29 February, in a flourish of threats to sue the UK government as he claimed the Home Secretary Priti Patel had generated an “atmosphere of fear” by “shouting and swearing” at people in her department.
In his statement, Sir Philip Rutnam alleged that Patel’s bullying and abuse, coupled with a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign”, gave him no option but to resign.
Rutnam, who claims he was briefed against talking to the media by sources supposedly from either Downing Street or Patel’s allies, said he was accused of being unable to do his job and undeserving of his pension.
Reports suggest the Cabinet Office made an attempt to “negotiate a leaving package” for Rutnam if he exited without generating a ruckus, yet talks fell through on Friday night.
Priti Patel has rejected the allegations made against her as “completely false”.
A spokesperson for Patel is cited as saying:
“The home secretary completely rejects all allegations made against her.”
In the House of Commons, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said if the previous “serious allegations” raised by Rutnam about the home secretary were true “then that would clearly constitute a breach of the ministerial code”, adding:
“Why, without a proper investigation, has the prime minister defended the home secretary, calling her fantastic and saying he absolutely has confidence in her?… The government must now call in an external lawyer as quite rightly suggested by the union for senior civil servants, the First Division Association.”
While confirming that an inquiry would consider all complaints against Patel, Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove was quoted as saying:
“Allegations have been made that the home secretary has breached the ministerial code. The home secretary absolutely rejects these allegations. The prime minister has expressed his full confidence in her and having worked closely with the home secretary over a number of years, I have the highest regard for her – she is a superb minister doing a great job.”