U.K. Ethics Adviser Quits After Johnson Clears Patel of Bullying


Boris Johnson’s top adviser on government ethics dramatically quit after the prime minister overruled his inquiry into bullying, which found Home Secretary Priti Patel broke ministerial rules.

“I recognize 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,” Alex Allan said in a statement. “But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position.”

Allan found that Patel, who has led the Home Office since 2019, had “not consistently met the high standards” required by the ministerial code of “treating her civil servants with consideration and respect” and at times her behavior amounted to bullying. “To that extent her behavior has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally,” Allan said.

In a separate statement, Johnson said he had carefully considered Allan’s conclusions but judged the code had not been broken.

“The Prime Minister has full confidence in the Home Secretary and considers this matter now closed,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “He is reassured that the Home Secretary is sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working.”

Allan’s resignation marks a dismal end to a week that was meant to herald a re-launch of Johnson’s premiership, following the departure of two of his most powerful aides, Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain. For months, the prime minister had delayed publishing the findings of the Patel inquiry, which was started in February.

“He hasn’t tolerated bullying,” Press Secretary Allegra Stratton said on a call with reporters on Friday. “It is not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully.”

Stratton said Johnson had treated the allegations of bullying very seriously and would urge companies and organizations across the U.K. to do likewise.

Ministers usually resign or are sacked if they break the ministerial code. Patel, who has previously served as International Development Secretary, resigned from that role in 2017 after holding unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials. She was brought back into the Cabinet when Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019.

“I am sorry that my behavior in the past has upset people,” Patel said in a statement. “It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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