Boris Johnson's adviser quits over Patel bullying report

20 November 2020

(Sharecast News) - Boris Johnson's ethics adviser has quit after the prime minister rejected his conclusion that Home Secretary Priti Patel breached a code of conduct by bullying civil servants.

Alex Allan, a former senior civil servant, resigned after conducting a nine-month review of Patel's behaviour towards members of her team. The summary report, released on Friday, found Patel's behaviour had failed to conform with the ministerial code.

"The home secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the ministerial code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect," Allan said in the report.

Johnson responded by saying the code had not been breached and that Patel was "sorry for inadvertently upsetting" people she worked with. He said relationships, practices and culture at the Home Office were much better.

Allan then published a statement saying: "I recognise that it is for the prime minister to make a judgement 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."

The review was triggered by the sudden resignation of the Home Office's permanent secretary Philip Rutnam in February over Patel's alleged bullying. Rutnam has taken the extraordinary step of suing the government for constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal scheduled for 2021.

Nick Macpherson, the former top civil servant at the Treasury, said Allan's report was unusually critical, suggesting Patel had broken the code.

"In my experience, things have to be very bad indeed for a Cabinet Office inquiry to find fault in a minister - the system is rigged to conclude the contrary," Macpherson said.

Allan's resignation is the latest episode in a fraught period for Johnson's government. His top adviser Dominic Cummings and communications chief Lee Cain were forced out a week ago to the delight of Johnson's backbench MPs.