British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday supported his Home Secretary Priti Patel, who apologized after being questioned for harassment of his teams.
The conservative leader estimated that Priti Patel, 48, had not violated the ministerial code of conduct, contrary to the conclusions of an independent investigation which the rapporteur resigned in the wake.
"The Prime Minister has full confidence in the Minister of the Interior and now considers this matter closed", according to a government statement.
"He hates harassment" but "he does not think that Priti Patel is a bully," added Boris Johnson's spokesperson.
Accused of "vicious" leaks in the press
The minister regretted that his “behavior in the past affected people”.
"It was never my intention to upset anyone," she added in a statement.
"I am very keen to implement the commitments we have made to the people of this country and I recognize that I am direct and that I have sometimes been frustrated."
The scandal had erupted at the end of February with the resounding resignation of the top official of the Interior Ministry, Philip Rutnam, who accused Priti Patel of being the source of "vicious" leaks to the press against him after he had expresses concerns about his behavior.
According to accusations he had relayed, the boss of the Home Office had "shouted and cursed, denigrated people and made unreasonable and repeated requests", which she had denied.
The ethics counselor leaves
An independent investigation, ordered by Boris Johnson, concluded that Priti Patel's behavior, which sometimes involved "shouting and name calling", "contravened the ministerial code, even if it was not intentional", akin to to "bullying".
However, the investigation has found improvements since.
The author of the investigation, Alex Allan, independent advisor to the Prime Minister on ministerial ethics, resigned in the wake of the support expressed by the leader for his minister.
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Jonathan Evans, chairman of the Committee for the Standards of Public Life, judged this resignation "very worrying", considering that it raised "serious questions about the effectiveness of the current provisions".
Forced to resign under Theresa May
Priti Patel, who campaigned alongside Boris Johnson in favor of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, had to leave the government of former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017 for having carried out parallel diplomacy with Israel when she was in charge of International Development.
The decision to keep her in office was castigated by Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer.
“Once again, the prime minister has failed to live up to the task,” he tweeted.
“If I were Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior would have been removed from her post.
Yet again, the Prime Minister has been found wanting when his leadership has been tested.
If I were Prime Minister, the Home Secretary would have been removed from her job.
- Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 20, 2020
He wanted Boris Johnson and Priti Patel to explain themselves to MPs and demanded that the investigation report be published in its entirety, which Downing Street excluded to protect those who testified there.