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Bullying scandal: PM's advisor quits after Johnson backs Patel

by Bethany Rielly

BORIS JOHNSON’S adviser on ministerial standards resigned today after the premier rejected his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.

Responding to the shock decision, Labour accused the PM  of behaving as if there was “one rule for Boris Johnson and his friends, another for everyone else.”

The draft report by Sir Alex Allan found that the Home Secretary had broken the ministerial code in her behaviour towards staff, which included instances of “shouting and swearing.” 

Ministers usually resign if they are found in breach of the code. But Mr Johnson said today that he rejected the report’s findings and had “full confidence” in Ms Patel.

The announcement was swiftly followed by Sir Alex’s resignation. The senior civil servant said he recognised that it was up to the PM to decide whether Ms Patel had broken the 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,” he said. 

The bullying investigation was launched in March following the dramatic resignation of the Home Office’s most senior civil servant, Sir Phillip Rutnam, who said that Ms Patel’s behaviour had “created fear” among staff. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “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.”

The Home Secretary issued an apology, saying she was “sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people,” adding that it had “never been my intention to cause upset to anyone.”

Civil servants’ union PCS said it was “outrageous” that Ms Patel had escaped the sack.

“Civil servants do an incredibly difficult job keeping public services running and impartially advising ministers,” general secretary Mark Serwotka said.

“There should be no circumstances where bullying is acceptable and this should be a warning to other ministers that our union will not tolerate any bullying, harassment or intimidation in the workplace.”

Sir Keir’s condemnation of Mr Johnson for bullying did not go down well in all quarters.

“It’s hard to imagine another workplace in the UK where this behaviour would be condoned by those at the top,” he tweeted – but this provoked mockery online, given Labour’s lack of action over a report leaked over Easter detailing misbehaviour including bullying by head office staff apparently with the full knowledge of then general secretary Iain McNicol.

Young Labour South West rep Daisy Carter responded: “The Labour Party?????? Did we all forget about the leaked report?”

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