Boris Johnson’s decision to claim that Priti Patel did not break the ministerial code, despite an inquiry into her conduct finding she had “not consistently met the high standards expected of her”, has sparked another resignation in government.
The prime minister’s adviser on Ministerial Standards, Sir Alex Allan, resigned in response to Johnson’s decision to keep Patel as home secretary.
An investigation concluded Patel’s behaviour – which was said to include some occasions of shouting and swearing – met the definition of bullying adopted by the civil service.
Normally ministers are expected to resign if they breach the code.
But a government statement said Johnson has “full confidence” in Patel and “considers this matter now closed”.
Patel apologised for upset caused by her behaviour, saying in a statement: “It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone.”
In his subsequent resignation, Sir Alex Allan said: “I recognise that it is for the prime minister to make a judgment 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.”
A Cabinet Office investigation was launched in March over allegations that Patel belittled colleagues and clashed with senior officials in three different departments.
It followed the resignation of the Home Office’s permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam, who accused Patel of a “vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” against him and is claiming constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Yet again, the prime minister has been found wanting when his leadership has been tested. If I were prime minister, the home secretary would have been removed from her job.
“It is hard to imagine another workplace in the UK where this behaviour would be condoned by those at the top.
“The government should be setting an example. Instead, it is one rule for Boris Johnson and his friends, another for everyone else.
“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.
“In the interest of transparency, the report into Priti Patel’s conduct and any drafts should now be fully published and the prime minister and home secretary should come to the House on Monday to face questions on their conduct.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: “Priti Patel has broken the Ministerial Code, the PM should have sacked her.
“It’s the PM’s job to set an example, but once again Johnson has failed. He seems to believe there is one rule for him and his friends and another rule for everyone else. Totally unacceptable.”