Government Officials Turn On Patel's "Completely Incompetent" Home Office Over Channel Crossings
Priti Patel is under growing pressure over what critics say is her failure to manage Channel crossings, with a Whitehall source telling PoliticsHome that the Home Office is "completely incompetent" and her leadership "outdated".
In fresh criticism of the Home Seceretary, a Whitehall source said the Home Office was viewed by officials elsewhere in government as "completely incompetent."
"It’s not even an open secret that the Home Office’s leadership is outdated and far too reliant on other departments for what would’ve once been solely Home Office policy areas," they told PoliticsHome.
"Under their watch, so much fails."
They added that Boris Johnson's personal support for Patel was the reason she was still in her senior Cabinet position despite being "ineffective and unpopular."
Patel, the Home Secretary, will make a statement to MPs on Thursday afternoon after at least 27 people died while trying to reach the UK from France on Wednesday. They included five women and a young girl.
The tragic incident, which the Prime Minister last night said was "appalling," has left the government facing questions over how it failed to prevent it, and how it plans to finally address the issue of people making the deadly 20-mile trip across the Channel.
Allies of Patel have defended her role amid the mounting criticism.
One sought to play down the hostile briefings, telling PoliticsHome: “We are working in a very challenging environment and we deal with some of the biggest issues of the day, and of course there’ll be differing opinions.
“But the anonymous briefing of one person isn’t representative of the whole Home Office."
Patel, who in 2019 vowed to solve the issue of Channel crossings by the summer of 2020, has faced particularly harsh criticism — including from officials inside her own department.
A senior Home Office official told the Mail on Sunday that she was "out for herself and only interested in how this plays out," and described her ideas for handling Channel crossings as "erratic and outlandish."
They added: "Any sensible, mature politician would know they are never going to work, but she just comes out with it anyway. Officials come out of the meetings and the texts start flying, describing her as a 'moron' and an 'idiot'."
In a statement responding to the Mail on Sunday report, Patel and Home Office Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft said the "personal and anonymous attacks" were "regrettable and a very unfortunate part of public life," but "we will not let them distract from building a department able to rise to the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
They added: “We are both hugely grateful for the hard work of the thousands of public servants who work to do this every single day."
In an attempt to calm tensions between departments, a senior government source on Thursday insisted that Johnson's decision to ask Stephen Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to chair a new ministerial taskforce on Channel crossings was because it "requires the full weight of government and cross departmental grip."
"It’s not so much that the Home Office are not good," they added.
"The PM has been impressed by the way the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gripped supply chains and has therefore drafted him in to fix small boats."
Patel was due to have a phone call with the French interior minister before addressing the House of Commons, with both the UK and French governments under pressure to work together to find a solution.
Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call last night agreed on "the urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings and to do everything possible to stop the gangs responsible for putting people’s lives at risk," a Downing Street spokesperson said.
They added: “Both leaders were clear that today’s tragic loss of life was a stark reminder that it is vital to keep all options on the table to stop these lethal crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind them.”
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