Boris Johnson Accused Of 'Covering Up' Priti Patel's Alleged Bullying

Prime minister launches full throated defence of embattled home secretary at PMQs as she faces an onslaught of bullying allegations.
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Boris Johnson launched a full-throated public defence of embattled home secretary Priti Patel as Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minister of trying to “cover up” her alleged bullying.

The prime minister had Patel sit next to him at prime minister’s questions in the Commons and insisted she was doing an “outstanding job” and that he had “every confidence in her” despite a Cabinet Office investigation into a slew of bullying allegations against her.

Corbyn, who is demanding an independent probe into Patel’s behaviour, claimed Johnson was “determined to cover up for bullies” by giving the home secretary his full support when she is facing allegations spanning her time as a minister in three government departments.

After the angry exchanges, a spokesperson for Corbyn said government staff had contacted Labour over the last 24 hours with fresh bullying allegations about Patel.

It came after Sir Philip Rutnam’s unprecedented resignation as the top official in the Home Office on Saturday, when he accused Patel of bullying subordinates, briefing against him and lying about it. He is suing for constructive dismissal.

Reports also suggested a former aide at the Department for Work and Pensions received a £25,000 payout after claiming she was bullied by Patel, while further allegations have emerged from her time at the Department for International Development.

HuffPost UK also revealed allegations that Patel had tried to sack a senior official on Christmas Eve and had blacklisted Rutnam’s staff from meetings before his resignation.

Patel and Johnson during PMQs on Wednesday
Patel and Johnson during PMQs on Wednesday
PA

Corbyn urged the PM to release the findings of the Cabinet Office investigation, adding: “A government cannot be judge and jury over its own conduct.

“There has to be an independent element to that investigation.

“Overnight, further allegations have emerged that the home secretary repeatedly harassed and humiliated her private secretary while she ran the Department for International Development.

“If this is true, this suggests a shocking and unacceptable pattern of behaviour across three government departments – on each occasion, tens of thousands of pounds of hard-earned taxpayers’ money has been spaffed up the wall to buy their silence.”

His words were likely a reference to the PM’s controversial claim that money was being “spaffed up a wall” investigating historic child sex abuse.

“Was the prime minister aware of these allegations?” continued Corbyn. “And if he was, why did he appoint her?”

Johnson replied: “The home secretary is doing an outstanding job, I have every confidence in her.

“If there are allegations, of course it’s right they should be properly investigated by the Cabinet Office and that is what is happening.”

Corbyn countered: “The prime minister said ‘if there are allegations’ – is he completely unaware of all the allegations that have been made in the last few days?

“Is he completely unaware of the resignation of a permanent secretary [Rutnam] because of his treatment by the home secretary?

“We have a part-time prime minister who barely turns up but is determined to cover up for bullies in his government.

“When his home secretary has been accused of repeated bullying and harassment, leading to hard-working staff attempting suicide by overdose, he gave her his full support.

“How can the people of this country have faith in a prime minister who can’t be bothered to turn up, and when he does has no shame in defending bullying in his own government?”

Johnson replied: “That is a question from a full-time neo-Marxist who has failed to stamp out bullying in his own party.”

The PM repeatedly insisted he would not “take no lessons about bullying” from the leader of a party where “female MPs were bullied so badly in the manner of anti-Semitism they actually left the party”.

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