Cabinet colleagues defended Home Secretary Priti Patel this morning after reports last night that an inquiry looking into claims of bullying against her concluded she had broken ministerial rules.
“In my extensive dealings with Priti Patel she’s been nothing but courteous and kind,” health minister Matt Hancock told Sky News this morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked officials in March to carry out the inquiry to “establish the facts” after allegations were raised against Patel.
That followed the resignation of Philip Rutnam, the top official in the interior ministry, who alleged Patel had been guilty of bullying staff.
The draft report reportedly found Patel had broken the ministerial code – stating that ministers should treat officials with respect – and that there was evidence of bullying, albeit “unintentional”.
Patel has always rejected accusations of bullying.
Hancock said he had not read the report.
“I feel very proud to serve in cabinet alongside Priti Patel,” he told the BBC.
Hancock said if the report concludes that Patel did bully staff, her future in Cabinet should be made only by the Prime Minister
His tepid backing echoed other messages of support on Twitter.
However, Rutnam said Patel had helped wage a “vicious and orchestrated campaign” against him through a series of Fleet Street leaks.
The inquiry into Patel’s behaviour has been held up by Downing Street for months, according to former cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.
Whitehall sources have today told the Financial Times that Johnson will “fudge” the report and allow Patel to remain in her position.