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Boris Johnson’s standards adviser quits over bullying report

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

Prime minister standing by his home secretary, who apologized for the fact her behavior ‘in the past has upset people.’

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s independent adviser on ministerial standards resigned Friday after the prime minister rejected his advice that Home Secretary Priti Patel had breached the ministerial code following an investigation into bullying allegations.

Alex Allan’s investigation, launched in February following the resignation of Home Office Permanent Secretary Philip Rutnam, found that Patel had at times behaved toward civil servants in a way “that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals” and that she had been in breach of the ministerial code — the rules and standards for the conduct of U.K. government ministers.

However, Johnson — as prime minister, the final arbiter of the code — rejected the latter finding and has stood by Patel following the publication of the report’s key findings.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Allan said: “I recognize 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.”

Patel herself apologized for the fact her behavior “in the past has upset people.”

“It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone,” the home secretary said. “I am very grateful for the hard work of thousands of civil servants who help to deliver the Government’s agenda.”

“I care deeply about delivering on the commitments we have made to the people of this country and I acknowledge that I am direct and have at times got frustrated,” she said. Patel also thanked Johnson for his support.

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Johnson’s Press Secretary Allegra Stratton said that Johnson took the issue of bullying “incredibly seriously” but insisted Allan’s own advice to the prime minister had highlighted “mitigating factors” and that the home secretary’s behavior “needs to be seen in context.”

“The prime minister does personally take these allegations exceedingly seriously,” Stratton said. “I was in a meeting with him earlier today where he reiterated … that he loathes bullying. He recognizes that it is very difficult for people to come forward and raise concerns. It’s a brave thing to do. He knows that and he believes this process has been thorough. But it is also his responsibility to look at the conclusions in the round.”

A government statement said it had been “clear from Sir Alex’s advice that at times there have been difficult working relationships all round” at the Home Office.  

“Sir Alex’s advice found that the Home Secretary had become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in [the Department for International Development] three years ago. He also found, however, that the home secretary had not always treated her civil servants with the consideration and respect that would be expected, and her approach on occasion has amounted to behavior that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.”

However, the statement continued: “Having considered Sir Alex’s advice and weighing up all the factors, the prime minister’s judgement is that the Ministerial Code was not breached.”

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“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,” the statement concluded.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said he would have sacked Patel had he been prime minister and called on the government to publish Allan’s full report including any early drafts.

“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,” Starmer said.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-standards-adviser-quits-over-priti-patel-bullying-report/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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