Priti Patel is made of the same stuff as her hero Margaret Thatcher: Bill Carmichael

It is a sad fact of today’s politics that anyone who sticks their head above the parapet is likely to receive a volley of vile abuse.

Priti Patel at the 2019 Conservative Party Conference (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

If that politician is female you can multiply that tenfold, and if she happens to a member of an ethnic minority, you can square it again.

So it comes as little surprise that the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who happens to tick both of the boxes above, is one of the most vilified individuals on the current political scene.

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The level of sheer hatred, racism and misogyny she faces – usually from right on “progressives” who never tire of telling us how “tolerant” they are – has to be seen to be believed.

And the abuse comes not just from the cesspit of social media, but from mainstream publications as well. One newspaper cartoon depicted Patel – who is from a Hindu background – as a fat cow with a ring through her nose. Unbelievable!

Now I am the first to admit that Patel appears to be a formidable character who does not suffer fools gladly.

She has the kind of withering stare that is certain to turn the type of ex-public schoolboys who inhabit the Home Office civil service to jelly.

I am sure Sir Humphrey has never met anyone quite like her.

It comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that Patel’s political hero is Margaret Thatcher, and she certainly appears to have modelled herself on the Iron Lady’s no-nonsense style.

But her salty right of centre views are not unusual in the present Parliament, and it is hard to fathom the level of vituperation she comes in for.

One reason, of course, is her ethnicity. According to fashionable opinion, black and brown skinned people are all supposed to think exactly alike and in a way that is approved of by white, middle-class left-wingers.

Patel’s crime is that she dared to wander off the reservation and actually think for herself – and for that heresy she will never be forgiven.

But her life experience, highly unusual in senior levels of politics, gives her a refreshingly different perspective on some of the most difficult problems facing government.

Take, for example, immigration. Patel didn’t read about the immigrant experience from a book or by sitting in a lecture theatre – she actually lived it.

She is a true Brit – born in London – but her grandparents were originally from India, and her parents fled the brutal regime in Uganda to come to the UK, eventually building up a successful chain of newsagents in London and the South East.

Although she has suffered more than her fair share of racist name-calling, she knows from experience that the UK is one of the most tolerant nations on the planet and that this country gave her family the chance of success through their hard work and talent that Idi Amin would never have offered them.

This week Patel announced an overhaul of the asylum system designed to clamp down on criminal gangs and people traffickers by giving priority to people who apply through legal channels above those who enter on boats across the Channel.

In future, she said, the system will be based on need, and not on the ability to pay large sums to people smugglers.

She added that people who entered the UK illegally from safe countries, such as France, were not fleeing persecution but jumping the queue at the expense of people with nowhere else to go.

I heard her being interviewed on the radio a couple of days ago, and she is far from a polished media performer.

There is a rawness and occasional anger in her manner that made for an uncomfortable listen.

She’s not playing at this. She is a conviction politician, just like her hero Thatcher.

But when she talked about “fairness” she really meant it.

Pointedly she asked why should desperately needy women and children in the refugee camps in Syria be elbowed aside in the refugee queue by young, overwhelmingly male immigrants who can afford the £5,000 a pop that the people smugglers demand to get them into the UK illegally?

A good point, I thought. And despite all the flak she comes in for, I’ve not heard a single one of her critics answer it satisfactorily.

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