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One rule for them : part 2

November 20, 2020 3:04 PM

Earlier this year there was an almighty row when Dominic Cummings took his family north whilst his wife had covid and subsequently took his infamous drive to check his eyesight. What was particularly annoying about the incident was the way the Prime Minister supported his advisor for taking actions everyone else thought was against the covid lock-down rules. The weasel words and orchestrated ministerial support in the media were a perfect illustration that the rules devised by the Conservative Government were designed for little people like us, not for them and their advisors

Just to prove that lightning can strike twice we now have a similar case for Priti Patel our Home Secretary and Essex MP

In March a bullying inquiry was launched following allegations that Patel belittled colleagues and clashed with senior officials in three different departments and followed the resignation of the Home Office's most senior civil servant, who announced his intention to sue the government for constructive dismissal after what he termed a "vicious and orchestrated" campaign against him

A Cabinet Office investigation followed and its report has sat with the Prime Minister for a number of months whilst he decided what to do about it. The time taken and associated silence suggested all was not well.

i774c (Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash)Sir Alex Allan's findings based on the cabinet office investigation concluded that Patel's approach "amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying" - noting instances of shouting and swearing - and that she had breached the ministerial code, although her actions may have been "unintentional".. Its is normal in these circumstances for Minister to resign. You may recall that a few years ago Ms Patel did just that when she was found to have broken the code by undertaking a bit of unauthorised personal diplomacy when on " holiday" in Israel.

The prime minister, who stated in a foreword he wrote to the ministerial code last summer that "there must be no bullying", is the sole arbiter of the rules, and he decided that the ministerial code had not been breached. His spokesman said "He is reassured that the home secretary is sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working. He is also reassured that relationships, practices and culture in the Home Office are much improved. As the arbiter of the code, having considered Sir Alex's advice and weighing up all the factors, the prime minister's judgement is that the ministerial code was not breached

The ministerial code states: "Ministers should be professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect. Working relationships, including with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff should be proper and appropriate. Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the ministerial code and will not be tolerated."

This latest incident follows an official in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who received a £25,000 pay-out after she alleged that she had been bullied in 2015 by Patel, who was employment minister at the time. The DWP did not admit liability and the case did not come before a tribunal.

Ironically the only person to lose his job as a result of the investigation is Sir Alex Allan, the prime minister's adviser on ministerial standards, who has quit following Johnson's refusal to sack Priti Patel.

Allan said: "I recognise that it is for the prime minister to make a judgment on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the ministerial code. But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position as the prime minister's independent adviser on the code."

If this were you or I behaving like this in the Corporate world you can guarantee there would be sanctions applied for such behaviour. Most businesses have a zero tolerance policy on bullying. We are not lawyers but these findings suggest that Sir Philip Rutnam, the then Home Office's then permanent secretary, who has taken the government to an industrial tribunal alleging bullying must now be more likely to get compensation funded by us taxpayers who do have to follow the rules unlike it appears members of the government!!