The UK Labour Party is calling for the prompt release of a report into allegations of bullying by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, amid claims that the inquiry’s chief is under political pressure to clear her of charges.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds wrote to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Saturday saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson must address accusations that Helen MacNamara, the bullying inquiry’s head and chief of propriety and ethics, is under pressuring from No.10 to exonerate Ms. Patel.
“There are now allegations of deeply inappropriate political interference in the publication of the report, both in terms of content and timing,” Thomas-Symonds reportedly wrote.
He also added that, “the delay in producing it [the report] is totally unacceptable,” adding that it has so far been held up for four months.
A Cabinet Office investigation was launched in March 2020 over claims that Ms. Patel had bullied a number of colleagues and fought wars with senior officials in at least three different government departments.
In the letter to Mr Gove, Mr Thomas-Symonds said that the delay “creates the clear sense that the Government is acting in the interests of a Conservative Party elite, rather than the national interest.”
“We have been asking frontline public servants to make extraordinary sacrifices throughout this pandemic and it is only right that they have full faith in those in Government who make demands of them. This report must now be published immediately for it to be properly considered before recess begins, and we look forward to your confirmation of this,” Mr Thomas-Symonds added. The Commons is to go into summer recess on July 22.
The developments comes hot on the heels of reports by The Times that a “stand-off” has ensued between senior civil servant Ms. MacNamara and those senior political aides representing Boris Johnson over the inquiry’s findings.
According to The Times, Ms. MacNamara is refusing to exonerate Priti Patel from the bullying allegations, and is even said to have evidence supporting bullying claims made by Philip Rutnam, the former Home Office permanent secretary who quit his post in February 2020. Boris Johnson’s aides on the other hand, are allegedly pressing the inquiry into saying that they found no firm evidence of bullying on the part of Ms. Patel.
When Mr Rutnam quit his position back in February, he made the explosive claim that the Home Secretary had engaged in a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him. Ms. Patel quickly bit back, calling the accusation “false.” Aides also leapt to her defence, describing her as a “demanding” boss, but not a bully.
No.10 Downing Street has reportedly declined to comment on claims that it has unduly interfered in the timing of the report’s publication.
In one instance of apparent bullying, while Ms. Patel was employment minister in 2015, an aide who worked for her allegedly tried to commit suicide because she was being bullied. The woman eventually received a £25,000 compensation payment from the government. The BBC said that it had seen legal documents in which it was claimed that the woman had taken an overdose following an alleged bullying incident in October 2015. The woman alleged that Ms. Patel had told her to “get lost” and “get out of her face.” The woman also claims that she was fired from her post because Ms. Patel did not “like her face.”