The cry from rather a lot of those supporting Priti Patel, inexplicably made Home Secretary by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, has been that so many of her detractors have remained anonymous, unlike all those 92 signatories to a letter to the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph. How silent they now are, after they discover that the boot is very firmly on the other foot.
Because it is in the same Telegraph that an anonymous briefing has been reported, under the headline “Top Civil Servant backs Patel”. How senior this source is, we don’t know, which is most convenient for the argument being advanced. But we do know that the anonymous source is a “mandarin”. So what are the claims?
“A SENIOR Civil Servant has launched an attack on Sir Philip Rutnam, the Home Office’s former top official, for ‘declaring war’ on Priti Patel, accusing him of having ‘undermined the integrity’ of his profession”. How convenient for Ms Patel and her cheerleaders. Do go on. “In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the mandarin said they had witnessed officials openly undermining Ms Patel”. More convenient information!
There is more. They were undermining her “in meetings, having apparently ‘disagreed wit what she was trying to do’. The official witnessed the minister becoming ‘frustrated’ but said they never witnessed ‘bullying’”. Quote marks doing some heavy lifting there. Carry on. “The senior Whitehall figure, who has served under both Labour and Conservative Governments, said the ‘normal process’ in Whitehall would have been for Sir Philip [to] take a new role if he and Ms Patel could not work together”.
Which assumes Rutnam had not in fact explored such a move already. But pray continue. “Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said: ‘He should have been saying “you’re the democratically elected Home Secretary and it’s me that’s got to go” … I think it sets a dangerous precedent - senior Civil Servants trying to take down a democratically elected minister. Even if her behaviour was bad, you just do not do this’”.
How miraculous! Every box is coincidentally ticked: “undermining”, no bullying, no shouting, no loss of temper, lots of trowelling on “democratically elected”, lots of talking down Rutnam, who has not remained anonymous. It is almost as if the anonymous “Top Civil Servant” were given a check list of items that had to be included in their statement.
The perfect confluence of cheerleading was completed by Ms Patel’s former chief of staff appearing on the paper review on The Andy Marr Show™ to tell BBC viewers how wonderful she was to work for - “the most caring” boss he could remember - and for this to be backed by Jane Moore, representing the Murdoch mafiosi, who left those viewers in no doubt that Rupe and Rebekah want to see Ms Patel remain in post.
None of which will matter a jot when Rutnam’s employment tribunal happens, or if more bad behaviour is unearthed in the meantime. Because there are limits to talking up someone’s prospects, and expecting this to wash away their shortcomings.
Priti Patel is not out of the woods yet. And her backers just admitted it very openly.
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