Priti Patel resigns from Cabinet following showdown with Theresa May over secret meetings with Israeli officials

Posted On: 
8th November 2017

Priti Patel has quit the Cabinet following showdown talks with Theresa May over her secret meetings with Israeli officials during a family holiday in the summer.

Theresa May ordered Priti Patel back from Africa so she could sack her.
Credit: 
PA Images

After a day of drama and farce, the International Development Secretary resigned rather than be sacked by the Prime Minister following a 33-minute meeting in Number 10.

It means Mrs May has lost two Cabinet members in a week, following Defence Secretary Michael Fallon's resignation over sexual harassment allegations last Wednesday.

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Ms Patel had been ordered by Number 10 to return to London from an official trip to Africa this morning.

Tens of thousands of people logged on to the internet to track the route of her eight-hour flight from Nairobi to the UK, which landed shortly after 3pm.

The minister then had to wait more than three hours before her scheduled meeting with Mrs May in Downing Street. In a further blow, the Prime Minister was not even in Number 10 when she arrived, forcing her to wait even longer.

Ms Patel has been mired in controversy since it emerged that she set up 12 meetings - including one with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu - during her two-week trip to Israel in August.

In a major break with ministerial protocol, neither Downing Street or the Foreign Office were  in advance, and Mrs May only found out about the Netanyahu meeting last Friday.

Ms Patel was forced to apologise following a dressing-down by the Prime Minister on Monday, and at that point Downing Street considered the matter to be closed.

But it was then revealed that after returning from Israel, the minister had asked her officials to explore the possibility of UK aid money being given to the Israeli Defence Force for their work helping Syrian refugees in the Golan Heights. But she was told that was impossible because Britain does not recognise Israel's annexation of the area.

Her position then effectively became untenable when The Sun revealed last night that Ms Patel had held two further meetings with Israeli ministers in September, again without informing government officials.

In her two-page resignation letter to Theresa May, Ms Patel said her "actions were meant with the best of intentions", but admitted they "fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated".

She added: "I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the Government and offer my resignation.

"I will continue to support you and the Government and stand up for the Conservative values of freedom, opportunity and aspiration."

In her reply, Mrs May said Ms Patel's meetings with the Israelis should have been done "through official channels".

She added: "Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated."

WEAKER

PoliticsHome revealed last night that Labour MPs have tabled dozens of questions about the affair, which the Government must answer when the Commons returns from a mini-recess on Monday.

Ms Patel's resignation also forces the Prime Minister into another reshuffle at a time when her political standing could hardly be weaker.

Among those being tipped to replace the International Development Secretary are Penny Mordaunt, Alan Duncan, Anne Milton and Rory Stewart.

The Government has also been rocked this week after a gaffe by Boris Johnson left British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at risk of serving five more years in an Iranian jail.

And Damian Green, the Prime Minister's de facto deputy, is also under investigation over claims he sexually harassed a female journalist, and that pornography was found on his work computer during a police raid in 2008. He denies both allegations.