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Boris Johnson news: Priti Patel department facing ‘tropical storms’ amid calls for new bullying investigation, and claims Windrush report watered down

Adam Forrest,Ashley Cowburn
Friday 21 February 2020 16:15 GMT
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

Home secretary Priti Patel is facing fresh accusations of bullying, as former ministers and civil servants allege “aggressive” and “vile” conduct when she was in charge of the Department for International Development (Dfid).

The union representing civil servants called for a new process for raising complaints and investigating ministers’ behaviour, while the Home Office’s permanent secretary Sir David Normington said the department was facing “tropical storms”.

It comes as MPs warned Boris Johnson’s government not to water down a report into the Windrush scandal after it was reported a section branding the Home Office “institutionally racist” was stripped out.

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Adam Forrest21 February 2020 08:33

Windrush draft report branding Home Office ‘institutionally racist’ was ‘watered down’, officials claim

A warning not to water down a review into the Windrush scandal has been issued after it was reported a portion branding the Home Office “institutionally racist” was stripped out.

The delayed independent review was commissioned after people with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported.

The Times reported sources saying the phrase “institutionally racist” was included in an earlier draft of the Windrush review led by inspector of constabulary Wendy Williams, but had subsequently been removed.

Labour MP David Lammy demanded that the “truth must be published in full”.

He added: “The victims’ nationality and rights were denied because of the colour of their skin. If this is not institutionally racist I have no idea what is. It would be an outrage and an insult to the Windrush generation for Wendy Williams’ independent review to be watered down for political reasons.”

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 08:42

Home secretary hit by fresh bullying claims

Priti Patel is facing more allegations of bullying behaviour – a “pattern” according to one official – after she is thought to have attempted ousting the Home Office’s permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam.

Former ministers and civil servants have alleged “aggressive” and “vile” conduct when she was in charge of the Department for International Development (Dfid).

An ex-Dfid minister told The Times: “Is it a one-off? No it bloody isn’t. It’s her. It is exactly the same pattern of behaviour she showed when she was at Dfid.”

“She had team meetings where she would deliberately dress officials down in front of their colleagues … She persistently went over that line.”

Another official told the newspaper: “She was reviled in Dfid for her rudeness and insensitivity. She could not have been more hated for the way she treated people. She was just vile.”

Complaints were also reportedly made when Patel was at the Department for Work and Pensions between 2015 and 2016. 

After briefings about the performance of Home Office staff from her allies on Thursday, the FDA civil service waded into the row – warning ministers against creating “an atmosphere of fear” in their departments.

Priti Patel visiting Imperial College London (PA)

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 09:01

Immigration changes will ‘cut the legs off’ UK bands, industry claims

The government’s immigration crackdown will “cut the legs off” the British UK music industry, a leading body has claimed – warning artists will be forced to cancel tours and small venues put in jeopardy.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians said the Home Office has turned its back on the creative arts worth £111bn a year to the economy – similar to banking – and refused to listen to its pleas for help.

“Enormous” numbers of bands from EU countries will be shut out by the huge cost and frightening bureaucracy of performing, dealing a hammer blow to the venues that host them, it said.

And UK artists will also feel the pain if Brussels slaps similar restrictions on tours to EU countries, in the post-Brexit trade talks.

“This is taking a shotgun and shooting ourselves in the foot,” the Society’s furious chief executive, Deborah Annetts, told The Independent.

All the details here:

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 09:02

‘There seems to be a nasty streak’: Tory MP speaks out against Cummings

A senior Tory MP has hit out at Dominic Cummings for his “brutal” attack on the BBC and accused him of having a “nasty streak” that will backfire on the party.

Huw Merriman, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the BBC, attacked what he called “ideological trench warfare” against the corporation, in a recent No 10 briefing.

An unnamed adviser vowed to “whack” the BBC by abolishing the licence fee and forcing it to sell off many TV and radio stations – an attack widely attributed to Cummings.

Merriman told The House magazine: “Where I get concerned is the somewhat brutal way behind [his methods]. So the BBC is a good example of that … there seems to be a sort of nasty streak behind some of these briefings.”

He questioned why No 10 had to be “so divisive in the tone and language”.

The Tory MP added: “I just don’t think it’s going to end well.”

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 09:14

Tory peer tells Cummings critics to ‘shut up’ – and calls him ‘a genius’

Some people in the Conservative party think there’s far too much anonymised back-biting about the all-powerful No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings.

Lord Blencathra, former Tory chief whip, said: “Ministers should shut up about Cummings. Not a single one of those whingeing about him would be ministers without him.

“He is a genius, and our majority is largely due to him,” he told The Telegraph.


Boris Johnson's adviser Dominic Cummings (Getty)

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 09:33

Johnson holds calls with Trump – but avoids Huawei topic

Despite spending this week at his rural retreat in Kent, Boris Johnson is still doing difficult work – like speaking to Donald Trump on the telephone.

According to Downing Street, the pair discussed “bilateral issues” – but studiously avoided the topic of Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network.

The US president, said to have turned “apoplectic” the last time they spoke, has not forgotten about the Chinese tech giant, however.

Senior White House adviser Mick Mulvaney met top government official at Downing Street on Thursday, and made clear the Trump administration wants the Johnson administration to re-think the decision to grant the firm a role in the sensitive communications infrastructure.

A source told The Telegraph: “The Americans impressed upon us that the free trade agreement is going to have to be part of this Huawei discussion.”

No 10 denies the trade talks are linked to the 5G dispute.


Trump and Johnson at last NATO summit (EPA)

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 09:45

Home Office facing ‘tropical storms’, says former chief civil servant

The ex-Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington has been speaking about the obvious problems at his former department – as anonymous civil servants and allies of Priti Patel brief against each other.

According to the BBC, Patel has asked for her permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam to be removed.

Sir David cited remarks by the former home secretary Roy Jenkins, who said the department always seemed to be suffering from “tropical storms out of a clear blue sky”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Home Office has one or two tropical storms at the moment … In those circumstances the best thing is for the home secretary and the permanent secretary need to be absolutely in lock step, working together.”

Sir David also described the timetable for introducing a new immigration system in time for January 2021 as “tight”.

He said: “They do involve a big change in short space of time and they could do with working very closely together to get it implemented … I’m sure they’ve had conversations about how tight it is.”

Home Office HQ at Westminster (PA)

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 10:03

Tory minister deletes Question Time tweet

Nadine Dorries has deleted a tweet about the left-wing commentator Ash Sarkar, who appeared as a guest on Question Time last night.

“I realised people would use it to pile in on the person I was tweeting about,” said the Tory MP – claiming her original tweet had really been an attempt to complain about the BBC.

“I was trying to make a point that the BBC favour strident, very left wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away.”

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 10:21

Long-Bailey wins green group’s backing for Labour leadership

The grassroots campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal (LGND) has endorsed Rebecca Long-Bailey for the party’s leadership, after the shadow business secretary ranked first in its ‘climate scorecard’.

Long-Bailey achieved 80 out of a possible 100 points on the candidate scorecards released by LGND today, based on an assessment of her track record and responses to questions posed by campaigners.

Keir Starmer secured 51 points, while Lisa Nandy – the only candidate not to respond to LGND’s questions – was further behind on 39.

Lauren Townsend, spokesperson for  the group said Long-Bailey “stands out” but added: “It’s encouraging that all three leadership contenders are supportive of the Green New Deal – this transformative agenda can unite Labour’s electoral coalition, rebuild our communities and tackle the existential climate threat.”

Green candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey (Getty)

Adam Forrest21 February 2020 10:32

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