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UK Home Office denies report over Priti Patel bullying row

UK Home Office denies report over Priti Patel bullying row
February 21
10:54 2020

LONDON: The UK’s Indian-origin Home Secretary Priti Patel was engulfed in a bullying row within her ministry after a media report claimed that she demanded the removal of her Permanent Secretary, prompting the Home Office to issue a categorical denial.

Patel, an ally of Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has been in charge of the important ministry since July last year, is allegedly at war with her senior-most civil servant and has reportedly been accused of creating an “atmosphere of fear” within the Home Office.

“We have not received any formal complaints and we take the welfare of our staff extremely seriously,” said a UK Home Office spokesperson.

The allegations emerged in The Times newspaper, which quoted sources as saying that Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has been dragged into the row after Patel demanded the removal of her Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam.

Patel and Rutnam are said to be at odds with each other and described as “not the right fit”, a complicated situation for a minister and her top civil servant within a government department.

“Multiple sources inside the department have accused the Home Secretary of bullying, belittling officials in meetings, making unreasonable demands and creating an atmosphere of fear,” the newspaper report said.

It has prompted counter claims from supporters and allies of the minister, including UK business minister Nadhim Zahawi coming to her defence when asked to comment on the bullying allegations.

“I’ve known Priti for 25 years. She’s utterly professional, works night and day to deliver for the country and her constituents… she is a brilliant, collegiate team player,” Zahawi told LBC Radio.

The row emerged a day after Patel made one of her biggest policy announcements as Home Secretary, as she unveiled the UK’s new points-based immigration system to attract the “brightest and the best” from around the world.

The new system is pitched as a “firm and fair” mechanism that will treat all migrants, including Indians, equally after the free movement of people from within the European Union (EU) comes to an end on December 31 this year at the end of the Brexit transition period. PTI

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