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UK govt steps in to quash allegations against Home Secy Priti Patel


Press Trust of India  |  London 

In a rare step, the UK government on Monday issued a formal statement denying a flurry of media allegations involving Priti Patel, one of the senior-most ministers in the UK Cabinet, as "baseless" and against public interest.

The 47-year-old Indian-origin UK Home Secretary has been at the centre of a controversy over an alleged bullying atmosphere and strained relationship with the senior-most civil servant in her department.

The allegations were compounded by another media report over the weekend claiming that the country's MI5 intelligence service, which falls under Patel's brief as Home Secretary, had lost "trust" in the minister and were giving her less information than that of her predecessors.

"The Home Secretary and MI5 have a strong and close working relationship, and baseless claims to the contrary are both wrong and against the public interest," a UK government spokesperson said.

"The Home Secretary receives the same daily intelligence briefings as her predecessors, and no information is being withheld," the spokesperson said.

The statement follows a Sunday Times' report which had quoted sources to claim that Patel had not attended weekly meetings with security officials from different government departments for several months, and that she was informed of some issues later on in the decision-making process.

The report reiterated previous allegations by the newspaper around a kind of "civil war" within the Home Office as a result of the minister's disagreements with Permanent Secretary Philip Rutnam.

"The Home Secretary and Permanent Secretary are deeply concerned about the number of false allegations appearing in the media," a UK Home Office spokesperson said on Monday.

"They are focused on delivering on the Home Office's hugely important agenda, which includes creating an immigration system that works for the UK, putting more police on the streets and keeping the public safe from terrorism," the spokesperson said.

Patel was also openly backed by her junior minister in the Home Office, James Brokenshire, who branded the media reports as "false".

"I simply do not recognise the commentary and the false accusations and assertions that in so many ways have been swirling around," said Brokenshire, security minister in the Home Office.

Allies of Patel believe that she has become a victim of malicious leaks in an attempt to destabilise her position in the Cabinet, while colleagues have spoken out about her being a professional politician.

Former Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers, who was sacked in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's reshuffle earlier this month, felt it was part of a trend of "spiteful briefings" against women in positions of authority as she described Patel as a "highly effective Home Secretary".

"I am absolutely certain that she is probably tough and demanding on her civil servants but I don't believe for a moment that anything inappropriate or anything resembling bullying would have taken place," Villiers said.

Downing Street has also confirmed that Johnson has "full confidence" in the Home Secretary, while some reports suggest the possibility of an inquiry into the damaging leaks to the media from the Home Office over the past few weeks.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mon, February 24 2020. 18:16 IST