Unedifying exchanges which trivialised such an important issue, the post of Home Secretary – one of the so-called ‘great offices of state’ – is so important that only independent inquiry, conducted expeditiously by a former judge, will suffice – Downing Street can’t be its own judge and jury.
And, frankly, Ms Patel did herself no favours by appearing to smirk during the Commons exchanges – her demeanour should have been one of contrition, even humility, as fresh claims were made about her past conduct and staff relations which will make it harder for her to fulfil her current duties without distraction.
With the Home Office’s senior civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam choosing to resign in order to force an Employment Tribunal, and details of payouts to other staff becoming public, the unanswered questions surrounding Ms Patel are numerous and in the public interest. They also extend to three of the four Whitehall departments where she has worked and the scrutiny would be more intense if it was not for the urgency of the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
But – and this should not be forgotten – Ms Patel was compelled by Theresa May to resign as International Development Secretary in November 2017 after it emerged that she held meetings in Israel with senior figures without prior Foreign Office consent.
And what needs to be established, in addition to the veracity of the bullying claims, is whether sufficient checks are undertaken into the character – and conduct – of politicians when they’re considered for sensitive roles. If not, what does the Government propose to do and if the Cabinet Secretary needs a power to veto Prime Ministerial appointment to any of the ‘great offices’ in the future? Discuss.