The High Court will be looking into Boris Johnson’s decision to not remove Priti Patel from her post after she was found to be bullying civil servants. Sir Alex Allen the head of standards for the Prime Minister found that Patel had been bullying civil servants explaining “on occasions… amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt”. Sir Allen has since resigned from his post after Johnson ignored the recommendations in his report regarding the bullying scandal.
The court will be hearing if Johnson has broken ministerial code by not removing Patel from her post. Johnson kept Patel in her post almost a year after it had been found that Patel was bullying civil servants – including an incident where a civil servant fainted after a particularly confrontational meeting with Patel. Johnson explained that there had been a misunderstanding of the word bullying. Johnson himself found Patel not guilty of breaching the ministerial code, however the High Court will be set to give their judgment of this.
The civil servants union the FDA will be bringing the case against the government. In a statement, the general secretary of the FDA Dave Penman said “The ministerial code is the only means by which civil servants can raise complaints against the conduct of ministers and it is vital that decisions on this are subject to the rule of law.” If the FDA is successful at the High Court it will be the first ruling of its sort in history.
Earlier in the year former civil servant Sir Phillip Rutman tried to take the government to an employment tribunal over his mistreatment from Patel. Before the tribunal, Patel conveniently found £340,000 in government money for an out of court settlement, meaning that the general public had to foot the bill for Patel’s workplace behaviour in addition to the £30,000 in legal fees.
“Swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands.” – Sir Phillip Rutman, describing working with Patel.
In 2015, a civil servant in the Department for Work and Pensions also tried to bring Patel before a tribunal. However after another payout (this time to the value of £25,000), the case did not go to the tribunal.
Civil servants are not protected under the same workplace employment laws as the average worker in the UK. Civil servants are protected under the ministerial code which was only made known to the general public in 1992. It sets out expected standards of workplace behaviour . Ministers if found to have broken the code are expected to resign from their post.
Patel was in Peterborough today assisting with the Conservative Party election campaign. However, she unsurprisingly refused to speak to any media given the current predicament both her and the government currently find themselves in. If the FDA are successful with bringing Patel to account at the High Court, this will be a groundbreaking case that will demonstrate the recklessness of Patel and the incompetence of Johnson.
Ben Ughetti, is a member of the YCL’s East of England branch