Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell has spoken about Priti Patel’s chances of keeping her role as home secretary after the resignation of the most senior official in the home office.
Patel was accused of ‘orchestrating a vicious campaign’ against Sir Philip Rutnam, who announced he will be suing the government for constructive dismissal.
Speaking about Patel’s future in the government during Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, McDonnell said: “I can’t see it, it’s bizarre.
“Before I became a politician, I was a civil servant. I’ve worked with all parties, and when you get a civil servant go public like this, it’s unprecedented, I can’t remember a case like this, so it must be something pretty bad that’s gone on.”
McDonnell also criticised Boris Johnson’s abilities to manage the government, as he predicts Johnson is on track to lose his second key aide.
He said: “Interestingly, this morning, from what I hear, No 10 has said that the prime minister has confidence in his cabinet, not specifically Priti Patel, so it looks as though she’s on the way out.
“I think it says something more than about her, I think it says something about this government itself. In a couple of months he’s lost his chancellor and now it looks like he is going to lose his secretary as well.”
Sophy Ridge argued the government will likely say they are “prepared to ruffle a few feathers”, to which McDonnell said there is more “seriously wrong” aspects he is interested in: “You don’t go into abuse, that is what the allegation is here, swearing shouting abusing and bullying people.”
The shadow chancellor suggested that one of the ways in which the government can move forward is by organising an independent investigation which would involve the suspension of Priti Patel, but he stressed this must be done quickly because of health and social crisis.
On the issue of coronavirus, he praised NHS clinicians for doing “their best” but said there needs to be more political leadership and direction from the prime minister.
“We’ve lost 17,000 hospital beds as a result of ten years of dramatic austerity cuts, that’s a worry. I think they are really doing their best in the lights of the cuts that have gone on, we saw last week the figures. The critical beds which we needed for many of these cases, 80% capacity fall already.”
Although the government has promised to turn their spending taps on, McDonnell says austerity is far from over.
“I looked at a report last week and to reverse austerity they need about £54 billion. The government is promising nothing like that. There is a gap that they created in infrastructure for the past ten years, about £200 billion. The most I’ve heard on infrastructure is £100 billion over five years, that just won’t make it.
“They have to invest at scale, they are not talking anywhere near the amounts that are required and they are not tackling how you pay for those services, in particular a fair taxation system and tackling tax evasion and avoidance. It doesn’t look like they have a plan.”