And so Priti Patel returned from her trip to Africa, with more than 20,000 watching her progress on FlightRadar as the Kenya Airways flight winged its way towards Heathrow. She was then given the opportunity to resign as International Development secretary, to the intense relief of many civil servants who wished it had happened rather earlier.
Her departure was spun as her having failed to maintain the “high standards” of Government, as if Theresa May and her increasingly shambolic administration would be able to identify “high standards” if they jumped up and slapped them in the face. Ms Patel had been making up foreign policy on the fly, to the clear joy of the Israeli Government, who must have thought all their PR birthdays had come at once.
The problem for Theresa May, though, is that the obligatory exchange of outwardly courteous letters is not the end of the matter, not nearly. Two very long shadows have been cast over the Prime Minister’s credibility as a result of the affair, one of which came from Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who, it is fair to assume, has good contacts with the administration in Tel Aviv (and Jerusalem, if you prefer).
He claimed “Number 10 instructed Development Secretary Priti Patel not to include her meeting with the Israel foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on 18 September in her list of undisclosed meetings with Israelis which was published on Monday”, and continued “although Ms Patel’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not authorised in advance, the British government was made aware of it within hours”.
There was more. “On 22 August - the same day as Ms Patel spoke to Mr Netanyahu - Middle East minister Alistair Burt and David Quarrey, the British Ambassador to Israel, met Michael Oren, Deputy Minister at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. According to the notes of the meeting, Mr Oren referred to Ms Patel having had a successful meeting with Mr Netanyahu earlier. It is understood that this information was then conveyed to Number 10”.
Now, that might have looked a bit like it was coming out of left field, except that Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has also been digging around, coming up with yet more questions likely to embarrass the PM. He has concluded that the idea Theresa May didn’t know about the meetings Ms Patel was undertaking doesn’t hold water.
As the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg noted yesterday, “Tom Watson writing to PM over claims passed to him that Patel met FCO officials in Jerusalem, which he says makes it 'impossible to sustain the claim that the FCO was not aware of Ms Patel's presence in Israel’”. Pollard’s JC intervention got some serious stick earlier in the day, but when you put it alongside Tom Watson’s question, it all makes perfect sense.
Yes, Priti Patel was totally out of order in some of her actions last August, and possibly at other times as well. But the idea 10 Downing Street didn’t know what was going on is looking increasingly shaky - as is Theresa May’s grip on power. More to come later.
A stitch-up by No.10? I shouldn't wonder. I've always suspected the real reason May called GE2017 was, as a former Remainer and unelected leader, to stamp her authority on an unruly bunch of Brexit nutters in Cabinet. As that backfired horribly for her, now I wonder if she's finding a way to pick them off, one by one. Her choice for Patel's replacement will tell us a lot. The way arch Brexiters were carrying on last night, smiling inanely and saying 'Of course, it'll have to be another hard Brexiter' would suggest that they fear the same!
Defenders were concentrating on "it was a family holiday" and "she paid for it herself". Do we know if either of those are true? The latter, especially, seems a bit bizarre. I mean who else would pay for a family holiday?
That bit about Jerusalem might get you labelled "anti semitic".
Which is the usual tactic of the Israeli government and its supporters.
Check out this speech by Patel, and Theresa Villiershttps://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1m11s&v=BdNVXXdIHbA&app=desktop
There's something not quite right about all this.
I smell the Friends at work......
Paul Waugh makes a curious, even leading comment in his HuffPo Waugh Zone:
There remain real questions as to why May didn’t refer Patel for an investigation under the ministerial code, and the Conservative Friends of Israel and Lord Polak now face much greater scrutiny (some Tory MPs whisper it’s time CFI lobbying was exposed and its influence reduced.
For a start, CFI played some real part in saving at least three north London Tory seats in June. The closest run was Theresa Villiers in Chipping Barnet (maj. down to 353).
Ms Villiers has certainly been putting herself about of late: greetings cards for Eid, being seen on street stalls, availability for TV ... Locals have wryly commented on the change.
Hence, I was intrigued by the mention of her name as a potential DfID candidate.
Anon at 10:54
Theresa Villier's Register of Interests is worth looking at via the TheyWorkForYou website. Not just the Israel connection but also the donations from Conservative Councillor Barbara Yerolemou (see: Guardian newspaper 'How Icelandic bank's clients filled Tory coffers').
It was a sting operation. Only questions are who was bluffing. Israel the loser... for once.
@Charles Frith 11:50
"It was a sting operation"?
Who were the stingers?
It was a sting operation.
Ending with a period in the wilderness.
"Now no-one knocks upon my door, for a thousand years or more."
No tears for Priti, she'll be back in office as quick as a shake of a Fox's tail.
As soon as the Maybot is deactivated and the ThinkTank kids complete project "Rightwing coup".
A Sting Operation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sting_operation
All this talk of "stings" reminds me of Scott Joplin's immortal tinkle of The Entertainer.
Which is a damn sight more entertaining than watching Patel's fat arse waddle up the road in search of votes. Or even waddling into Israel for......what?
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