After reports circulated at the weekend suggesting that Priti Patel, who has inexplicably been made Home Secretary by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, was not getting on with her most senior Civil Servants, was bullying Whitehall staffers, and worst of all was having briefings withheld by MI5 because they could not trust her, there had to be a fightback. First of all, let us consider the MI5 claim.
This was tacked on, almost as an afterthought, to a small front page item in the Sunday Times under the by-line of political editor Tim Shipman. The piece simply ended with “MI5 officials have reduced the amount of intelligence they pass to Priti Patel because they ‘do not trust’ the Home Secretary”. It was as if Shipman was trying to downplay what looked very much like an exclusive insight into goings-on within the Home Office.
The increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph put their item on the front page, telling readers “‘Furious’ MI5 bosses deny Patel relations have soured … THE Security Service has been dragged into the internal war between Priti Patel and her top civil servant as officials issued an unprecedented denial that it ‘did not trust her’”. There was more.
“MI5 officers were said to be furious at the claims, in the Sunday Times, and took the highly unusual step of issuing such a strong denial … ‘Reports suggesting that the Home Secretary and MI5 do not have strong relationship are simply untrue’ said a security source”. So we do not hear from MI5, but just a “security source”.
Over at the Murdoch Times, the fightback was given greater prominence, but the focus was on Ms Patel wanting to know Who Told Shippers. “Patel ‘livid’ after claim she has lost trust of MI5 … Home Secretary demands inquiry into leaks” tells the headline, the supporting article adding “‘Priti is absolutely livid,’ an ally of the Home Secretary said. ‘The Blob (a derogatory term for senior officials) is tying to kill her. She’s determined to get to the bottom of it’”. Which gives the game away as to the identity of that “ally”.
Referring to the Civil Service, or the perceived Establishment, as “The Blob”, was a term beloved of those around Dominic Cummings, when the chief Downing Street polecat was advising Michael “Oiky” Gove at the DfE. It’s highly doubtful that other ministers or even Tory MPs would use such a term. But polecat Dom and his pals would. Point.
And the use of quote marks is another dead giveaway, something even the BBC is doing this morning: “Home Secretary Priti Patel 'deeply concerned' by 'false MI5 claims’”. Their report adds yet more quote marks: “The BBC's assistant political editor, Norman Smith, said the intervention from a security service source - saying the claims they withheld information from the home secretary were ‘simply untrue’ - was ‘highly unusual’”.
The reality is that someone said something to Shipman that rings all too true: the idea that intelligence may be held back from someone whose past loyalties have been, shall we say, variable and even wayward. All that sound and fury is mainly for the consumption of the Tory faithful; nothing said so far has proved the Sunday Times claim to be wrong.
Priti Patel’s Home Office tenure just hit a big bump in the road. And she can’t handle it.APPEAL The Legalballs Fund: I made a mistake. Now I need to raise £16,500 to cover a legal bill. You can chip in to help me HERE - all help is gratefully received. Thanks for reading this far!