No-one should be surprised at the tribal defensiveness being deployed by those out on the right in their efforts to shore up the position of Priti Patel, inexplicably made Home Secretary by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. It was the same with the phone hacking scandal (until the House of Murdoch fell in), and it has been the same with Cambridge Analytica and the lawbreaking of Vote Leave.
With phone hacking, those exposing criminal wrongdoing were denounced as patsies for the Labour Party (and worse), on CA the likes of Carole Cadwalladr were subjected to live media ambush or kept off the airwaves altogether, and with Ms Patel, those pointing out her track record for being a short-tempered bully and of apparently limited intellectual capacity are being denounced as sexist and racist.
It’s not working: last night saw yet more bricks out of the defensive wall as BBC Newsnight told “in 2017, Ms Patel was allegedly accused by officials in her private office at DfID of humiliating civil servants in front of others, of putting heavy pressure in emails and of creating a general sense that ‘everyone is hopeless’. The allegations were described to the programme as similar to those levelled against Ms Patel by Sir Philip Rutnam”.
There is more. “The … claims … were reportedly passed in 2017 to the DfID official by another senior figure in the department - who advised that the cabinet secretary at the time, the late Lord Heywood, should be informed. The senior figure wanted the allegations to be lodged in the Whitehall system so that officials would be aware of allegations surrounding Ms Patel if, as expected, she returned to ministerial office”.
The Newsnight source is, at present, anonymous. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, “The source who raised the allegations against Ms Patel at DfID in 2017 told Newsnight they were prepared to give evidence under their name to two official hearings”. Those being the Cabinet Office inquiry supervised by Michael “Oiky” Gove, and - more significantly - Rutnam’s employment tribunal.
As one might expect, the Tories would prefer it that we look over there, and a Tory source told Newsnight “What we are seeing is a concerted effort by certain sections of the civil service to undermine a home secretary trying to deliver what people want on crime and immigration. It is deeply disturbing that dark forces are trying to influence the findings of a Cabinet Office inquiry”. Wrong. What we are seeing is the entry of grim reality.
The BBC - favoured for the leak of information probably because whoever did the leaking gave that route the best chance of publication, given the tribal myopia of much of the press - has also told that “a cabinet minister told Newsnight that [Ms Patel] would face political ‘armageddon’ if Sir Philip's case for constructive dismissal makes it to a tribunal”.
Those in the press and elsewhere who have so slavishly - and, apparently, willingly - briefed in Ms Patel’s favour and smeared her critics to order now need to ask themselves one question: do they feel lucky? Lucky enough that somehow their version, in which she is a great reforming Home Secretary, is the nearest to reality?
Because if the emerging actual reality, that she really was promoted way beyond her ability and is an embarrassment to her Government, is true, then their credibility is bust. Again.
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