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Former colleagues praise 'tough and assertive' Priti Patel as bullying row rumbles on

Former colleagues praise 'tough and assertive' Priti Patel as bullying row rumbles on
3 min read

Former colleagues of Priti Patel have rallied round her in the wake of bullying allegations against the Home Secretary.

Nearly 100 senior figures, including Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby and three Conservative peers, signed a letter to the Telegraph saying the embattled minister was the victim of "an extraordinary campaign of gossip and smears".

A Cabinet Office investigation has been launched following accusations about Ms Patel's behaviour towards civil servants in the Home Office.

She has also been accused of bullying in previous jobs at the Department for International Development and the Department of Work and Pensions - claims she vigorously denies.

Boris Johnson has insisted that he is "sticking by" his Cabinet colleague, but opposition parties are continuing to apply pressure on her.

In their letter, Ms Patel's former associates said: "We do not recognise the picture that has been painted of her this week. She is certainly a tough, assertive and effective leader, but even under extreme pressure she has never crossed a line or lost her temper.

"She expects high standards, but is always professional. She gives her all for this country and deserves far better treatment than she has received. Those of us who have been employed by her at difficult times in our lives – during illness, a personal crisis or bereavement – also know how caring and compassionate she can be.

"We are shocked that she has been the target of an extraordinary campaign of gossip and smears, conducted by anonymous individuals via secret briefings and innuendo."

They added: "We are fortunate to have a strong, effective Home Secretary. She is right to ask tough questions of senior civil servants at the Home Office, which has hardly covered itself in glory in recent years. Most people would agree that the culture that produced scandals like Windrush must change.

"It is vital for our democracy that good ministers cannot be brought down by smears and gossip when they attempt to tackle serious issues in their departments.

"Far from the unjust treatment she has received this week, the Home Secretary deserves the wholehearted support of the people of Britain as she attempts to turn around the performance of a vital but notoriously dysfunctional department."

At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: "The Home Secretary is doing an outstanding job delivering change, putting police out on the streets, cutting crime and delivering a new immigration system. And I'm sticking by her."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "How can the people of this country have faith in a Prime Minister who can’t be bothered to turn up, and when he does has no shame in defending bullying in his own government?"

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