Ministerial Rules Need to be Followed by the Letter – Conservative Article
Boris Johnson has made a serious lapse in judgement in recent weeks. As much as I support the government with its decision-making, I am shocked that the Home Secretary has not resigned. This is after a Cabinet Office report found her guilty of bullying. I am also shocked that she has not accepted the report’s findings that she has broken the ministerial code. Sir Alex Allan, an independent advisor in charge of the investigation, chose to resign, as Priti Patel did not take responsibility for her actions.
In the report released by Sir Alex Allan following his investigation, he stated that “her behaviour was in breach of the Ministerial Code.” Therefore, she should have accepted the final report and resigned. However, there are some things that plenty of people have not taken into account from Sir Allan’s findings. One example is that “no evidence that she was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time.” A procedure needs to be put in place whereby civil servants, and any other members of staff, feel confident in providing feedback about a colleague’s behaviour anonymously.
Ministers’ behaviour should not have to change because of press reports but it should be reacted to internally. Sir Allan found that after this news came to light in the press “I note the finding of different and more positive behaviour since these issues were raised.”
Perhaps, there should be a new support system set up for civil servants, members of the government and parliament, to ensure that mental pressures are being dealt with and treated. This might make the government realise how important mental health is and that more funding should be made available. Sir Allan made a point in his report that “high pressure and demands of the role, in the Home Office, coupled with the need for more supportive leadership from the top of the department has clearly been a contributory factor.”
Patel has accepted that her actions were unacceptable. Although this is good, I still believe that she should take more responsibility and resign. This would ease tensions between the civil service, Downing Street and Parliament. Furthermore, it would show the public that structure, trust and tradition was being restored and adhered to following Dominic Cummings’ resignation. The power to hire and fire ultimately remains with the Prime Minister, but Boris Johnson has seriously undermined the viability and importance of the ministerial code.
An article about this by the Institute for Government stated that the inquiry has “completely exposed the limits of the current set up and heightened calls for an investigative process with true independence from the prime minister.” The government needs to restore trust in the public. By making this decision he has put his position into question.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Max Jablonowski
Point of Information
Trust in Our Leaders has Disappeared – A Liberal Response
Priti Patel needs to go.
Sir Allan’s findings are clear. Patel has continuously displayed conduct that has no place in the running of an effective, humane government. I am as appalled as Max that she hasn’t already resigned. At the same time though, I’m not shocked that a bully lacks the proper integrity and courage to do so.
A summary of the report’s findings have been damning so far, but there is undoubtedly more underneath the surface. After all, the summary is the only official document on the investigation that we have at the moment. The full report has not been published yet. I wonder why.
Max is right in many respects. The support networks are not there. Proper procedures for dealing with bullying and mental health are criminally lacking in our government. Johnson is sabotaging key elements of our system. It’s no shock that Britain does not trust its government. Max’s demand is crucial: trust must be restored in the public.
Yet, Max should stress how uncooperative the Conservatives have been during the process. They have consistently interfered with an investigation which they have failed to respond to since April. Despite Sir Allan’s clear findings that she had broken 3 ministerial codes, Johnson has refused to acknowledge this, even rallying support for Patel in parliament! Patel has barely apologized. Sir Allan would not have resigned if Patel had only been ‘demanding’ or ‘assertive’.
The handling of the report has set a larger precedent for power as well. Mistreating staff has now become a politicized option, rather than a moral wrong. It shows that bullies can get off the hook if they are in the right place at the right time. Boris’ cabinet during a time of crisis should prove the strength of our system, not fail it! Now, the cabinet verges on being a den of nepotistic gangsters.
Sir Allan’s report should be a call for action. We can no longer let crooks represent us whilst we helplessly wait for another General Election. Our incompetent government plays with our trust to save their skin, sacrificing the voice the public gave them. The voice of those who, during a pandemic, risk their lives to save others, not themselves.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Priti Patel Needs to Go, but she is not the Only Problem – A Labour Response
I can only echo both Max and Frank’s sentiment in this response – Priti Patel needs to go. The recent Cabinet Office report highlights her breach of the Ministerial Code and evidences her obvious bullying and lack of considerate management of her department. And this isn’t the first time Patel can be questioned – her voting record and previous controversies have a lot to say also. Maybe this response offers some bias as I have never been a fan of Patel, but I too think her time is up and she needs to resign.
Ultimately, Max is right. This issue goes further than Patel herself. I am thankful Max has looked beyond party alignment here and onto the issue of further government scrutiny and ministerial responsibility. These are the real underlying issues.
I have to agree with Max that there needs to be a new support system for staff within government departments and the civil service so they can adequately express when they feel uncomfortable. No one should have to simply ‘put up’ with bullying purely because their boss is a government minister. No role is above scrutiny and criticism.
As well as this, Boris Johnson’s government as a whole needs to be held to a higher degree of scrutiny, by both the opposition and the British public. A working democracy allows for discontent but only if there is an opportunity for such discontent to be heard, as discussed in a recent POI article.
The coronavirus pandemic has unveiled the mass breach of ministerial responsibility that underpins BoJo’s entire government. From Dominic Cummings to Priti Patel, the government should not be allowed to get away with such breaches in responsibility and an inherent lack of scrutiny. Something needs to change.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo