Tory Senedd Member defends Home Secretary at centre of bullying inquiry

Andrew RT Davies. Picture by the National Assembly. (CC BY 2.0). Priti Patel picture by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0).

A Conservative MS has defended the UK Home Secretary who is at the centre of a bullying storm.

Former leader of the Tories in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, came to the defence of Priti Patel, who was found to have broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour in an inquiry into bullying by standards chief Alex Allan.

Allan resigned from his role after the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Ms Patel. Johnson stated that he disagreed with the report’s findings and said that she should not have to resign.

According to Sun journalist Harry Cole, the Prime Minister has sent out a Whatsapp order to Tory MPs to rally the troops.

It said: “Time to form a square around the prittster.”

Mr Davies, who is the spokesperson for health for the Conservatives in Cardiff Bay said: “Whether we like it or not, sometimes strong leadership requires stern words.

“This does not make you a bully. Priti Patel is a strong willed and highly capable minister not frightened to fight against complacency and demand the highest of standards.”

 

‘Unaware’

According to the report Ms Patel “has not consistently met the high standards required by the ministerial code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect”.

Allen cited examples of “shouting and swearing”.

He added: “Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.

“To that extent her behaviour has been in breach of the ministerial code, even if unintentionally.”

However, he did add that Home Secretary had “legitimately – not always felt supported by the department”.

“In addition, no feedback was given to the home secretary of the impact of her behaviour, which meant she was unaware of issues that she could otherwise have addressed.”

In a statement about his resignation Allan said: “I recognise that it is for the prime minister to make a judgement on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the ministerial code.

“But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position as the prime minister’s independent adviser on the code.”

In a statement, Ms Patel said: “I am direct and have at times got frustrated”

“It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone,” she continued.

“I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people.”

‘Transparency’

The leader of the UK Labour Party, Keir Starmer tweeted: “Yet again, the prime minister has been found wanting when his leadership has been tested. If I were prime minister, the home secretary would have been removed from her job.

“It is hard to imagine another workplace in the UK where this behaviour would be condoned by those at the top.

“The Government should be setting an example. Instead, it is one rule for Boris Johnson and his friends, another for everyone else.

“The Prime Minister has previously said he ‘loathes bullying’. Yet when one of his own ministers is found to have bullied their staff he ignores the damning report sat on his desk and instead protects them.

“In the interest of transparency, the report into Priti Patel’s conduct and any drafts should now be fully published and the Prime Minister and Home Secretary should come to the House on Monday to face questions on their conduct.”

A UK Government statement released said: “The prime minister notes Sir Alex’s advice that many of the concerns now raised were not raised at the time and that the home secretary was unaware of the impact that she had.

“He is reassured that the home secretary is sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working. He is also reassured that relationships, practices and culture in the Home Office are much improved.

“As the arbiter of the code, having considered Sir Alex’s advice and weighing up all the factors, the prime minister’s judgment is that the ministerial code was not breached.

“The prime minister has full confidence in the home secretary and considers this matter now closed. He is grateful to the thousands of civil servants working extremely hard to support delivery of the government’s priorities.”

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