It’s rare to commence prose with a disclaimer: it's as if to say, ‘you’ll like this, but not a lot…’, before causing offence and referring the offended back to the disclaimer. My disclaimer is that I have no political allegiance. Yes, I know many will brand me a peculiarity for that, as you question how any individual refuses to nail his, hers or their, colours to a blue, red or yellow mast. But there it is: I trust none of the below, question all the above and feel I should make no apology for it either.

Disclaimer over: let’s talk about Priti Patel. Recently scolded after allegations by the former home office permanent secretary, Philip Rutman, who claimed she orchestrated a ‘vicious’ campaign against him after he challenged the alleged mistreatment of civil servants.

A DWP official also, it emerged, received a £25,000 payoff in 2015 after claims she was bullied by Patel who was also said to have ‘humiliated’ officials while a minister in 2017. Did they have an axe to grind? Maybe, maybe not, but the recent report findings, not released in full by the Government, are as clear as a Bojo press conference and give us little to stake a reasoned opinion on.

Watford Observer: Home Secretary Priti Patel. The Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case have written to ministers and heads of Government departments reminding them that there is "no place for bullying" following an investigation into Home Secretary PriHome Secretary Priti Patel. The Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case have written to ministers and heads of Government departments reminding them that there is "no place for bullying" following an investigation into Home Secretary Pri

Home Secretary Priti Patel went to school in Watford

Patel has received no end of stick, as she managed to cling to the wreckage of her job, for now. The jury is out as to whether she should be ‘branded’ a bully, but I would argue that swathes of public sector managers could be deemed to have such tendencies. It is no doubt true in politics, as it is in, say, education, yet much of it comes down to your definition of bullying.

When Labour’s Diane Abbott undertook one of her litany of car crash interviews, where she claimed the police force could be run on twenty thirteen pounds annually, those criticising were castigated as ‘racist’, despite her being attacked, in the most part, for her apparent ineptitude and not the colour of her skin.

Patel however is different: She is not a darling of the liberals, nor is she worthy of public defence, because she is the pantomime villain of ‘Tory scum’. In effect, because she is a member of an ethnic minority group who holds, what could be deemed to be the ‘wrong’ political views: she is cast out of the inner sanctum of the woke public court of opinion. It can be argued that the attacks on her are the opposite of liberal and ultimately could exacerbate actual racism as any person of colour in similar positions are ‘fair game’.

It is worth delving into the environment where Patel works, where robustness of tone and manner have arguably got her to where she is today. She is diminutive, at 5ft 3ins, and an Indian Hindu from working class stock who has risen to the echelons of political office. Her career trajectory places her in charge of legions of pale males, many of whom were brought through the public-school system where being reprimanded by a woman, especially one of colour, is viewed as a rum deal, old chap.

Think of the recent past perpetrated by the Home Office before Patel’s watch: of the Windrush scandal where legions of Brits were deported, wrongly, to the Caribbean. There have been huge data breaches with, on one occasion alone, 130,000 criminals’ details being ‘lost’. The home office was also responsible, over the course of six years, for wrongly releasing more than 1,000 offenders, including murderers, paedophiles and rapists who should have been deported.

With just those few examples, it could be argued there was a dire need for change and hence Patel was appointed as a ravenous pit bull who would shake things up, challenge the cultural ineptitude, and create accountability. No doubt she has ruffled feathers and has maybe bullied staff, however there is a huge difference between calling someone to account, and a sustained catalogue of bullying, yet without inside knowledge we are not truly to know into which category she falls.

The ministerial code, which she has apparently breached, is a series of rules that ministers must abide by. They are expected to ‘maintain high standards of behaviour’ which is open to interpretation for any minister past or current, including Patel.

Although Johnson's judgement has been lacking in droves during 2020, he feels she is worthy of his support as maybe the changes the home office so desperately require are starting to take shape. The only danger now is that, like a defender who receives a yellow card in the first half, she will change her ways, walk on eggshells and no doubt invite back in the ineptitude for which the home office has become infamous. As for the opposition, in their eyes, their motives are righteous, although it could be argued that Patel, along with Sunak and Javid, have special attention dished out to them as they are seen to be turncoats, and, through their Tory beliefs, are deemed prime targets for criticism that arguably cross the line into racism.

Should she have gone? Maybe, but the venom with which she has been attacked has been bullying, and the toxicity surrounding her position continues to be anything other than a pretty spectacle to behold.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher