Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
4 March 2020

Will anything force Priti Patel’s resignation as Home Secretary?

Patel may be in danger if the investigation into bullying allegations reveals signs of operational incompetence. 

By Stephen Bush

What would it take for the government to part ways with Priti Patel? The Home Secretary has denied a third set of bullying allegations, which has been reported by the Sun and by Newsnight: this time during her time at the Department for International Department. 

But as I said on Newsnight on Monday evening, Patel’s great strength remains that there is no one in the parliamentary party who so embodies everything that the government is trying to do. She is a committed authoritarian on crime and committed, too, to the government’s new approach on immigration. More importantly, she is known by journalists to be committed and that has been transmitted to voters. She’s a long-time Leaver from an ordinary middle-class British Asian background – and one of the neglected parts of the government’s success in December was winning votes among that group. 

Electorally, there is no one quite like Patel in the Conservative Party. And bluntly, I doubt that allegations of bullying are that bad a look, politically speaking, when your political appeal is based on the idea that you are a hard-as-nails Home Secretary who tells it like it is. Some of those who like Patel will believe her denials: others who like her won’t but will take the allegations as proof that she is the Home Secretary for them. 

The government did an excellent job on Monday of mobilising Conservative MPs, on Twitter and in the House of Commons, to circle the wagons. Tory MPs well understand the political appeal of Patel but they do have doubts about her competence. That they have been forced to publicly defend her makes it harder for them to turn around and demand a change if more allegations surface. (As Katy Balls explains well in her i column today, those doubts are also shared in Downing Street.

But the bullying allegations are also allegations of incompetent people-management: a bullied team is not a team functioning at peak efficiency. And the only way I can see that Downing Street might have to part ways with its most valuable minister is if the investigation into the allegations reveal not only further complaints, but signs of operational incompetence.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them