Priti Patel damaged by bullying inquiry process

– and there’s a chance it could rear its head again 

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent news.sky.com 

The Cabinet Office report into whether or not Priti Patel bullied her civil servants has been sitting on the prime minister’s desk for months.

Since March, political reporters have asked about the progress of the inquiry into the home secretary on a near-daily basis, only to be told by Boris Johnson’s official spokesman: “I don’t have any update for you.”

It’s not entirely clear why this week was chosen as the moment to finally publish the findings, but the controversial nature of the prime minister’s response might at least explain why there had been such a delay in Number 10 in coming forward with it.

Sir Alex Allan, his independent adviser on ministerial ethics, had concluded Ms Patel had behaved in a way that constituted bullying, and was in breach of the ministerial code.

Normally it would then be for the prime minister to determine whether that breach constituted a sackable offence.

Instead, Mr Johnson decided that was immaterial because in his eyes there was no breach.

He was within his rights to make that call, because he has the final say on matters relating to the code, but it is a fact there is no precedent for prime minister contradicting the conclusion of their ministerial ethics adviser following such an investigation.

The response of Sir Alex was to immediately resign from his post.

The justification Number 10 gave for this unprecedented approach was that the prime minister had to consider the matter “in the round”.

His spokesman said Mr Johnson had concluded there was no breach because any offence caused was inadvertent and that the home secretary had not been made aware of it. He went on to say that given Ms Patel had made an “unreserved apology” the matter was now “closed”.

But is it? Has the “unreserved apology”, as Ms Patel described it herself, done enough for the issue to go away? The short answer is no.

Already opposition politicians are expressing outrage that the home secretary’s apology was for the upset caused, rather than the behaviour itself.

The full publication of the report is another issue that is likely to linger.

The government have said the final document cannot be published without compromising the private information of those who contributed evidence to it.

However, Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, has already requested a copy for scrutiny of whether key evidence has been overlooked in the summary that was published on Friday. A political row will ensue if that is denied.

Similarly, Lord Evans, the chair of the Committee for Standards in Public Life, has said Sir Alex’s resignation was “deeply concerning” and indicated it would now be looked at as part of his ongoing inquiry into the ministerial code.

On top of all that, the former senior civil servant whose resignation sparked the inquiry in the first place has raised questions about whether the findings presented on Friday were accurate.

Sir Philip Rutnam, who quit as permanent secretary at the Home Office in February, has said it is false to claim the home secretary was not made aware of the offence that her behaviour had caused.

In a statement, Sir Philip said Ms Patel had indeed been warned about shouting at staff in August and September of last year, and again in February of this year.

All of this is likely to be raised at the employment tribunal Sir Philip has launched for what he claims was constructive dismissal.

But that tribunal, if it goes ahead, is not expected to be held until next September.

The select committees that are indicating they want to investigate these matters are unlikely to move forward particularly quickly.

Given the reaction from the Conservative backbenches has been broadly supportive of the prime minister’s decision, it is possible to see why Downing Street chose to publish the findings on Friday.

The matter may not be as closed as Mr Johnson claims it to be, but given the next few weeks are likely to be dominated by a focus on the spending review, Brexit talks, vaccine rollouts and rows over changing coronavirus restrictions, the scope for this issue to remain at the top of the agenda is limited.

That does not mean Ms Patel is safe in her post for good.

There is no doubt she has been damaged by this process, and there’s plenty of scope for it to rear its head once again.

But Number 10 appears to have concluded that the storm created by sticking by a home secretary, who is popular with Conservative MPs and party members alike, will soon be blown away by the bigger political storms on the horizon.

From the Waugh Zone Huffpost uk:

“form a square around the prittster”

One Tory insider believes that like the Cummings case, the story is not going to go away.

“Patel needs to go, she needs to resign,” they told me.

“Keir Starmer if he’s smart is going to frame this as a condition of Johnson’s premiership – who do you stand up for? You’re a bully, you don’t care about the little guy.

“It’s the elitist thing – it’s Barnard Castle, it’s Priti Patel.”

Matters were made worse when it emerged that the PM texted Tory colleagues urging them to “form a square around the prittster”, which Stratton [Allegra Stratton PM’s new Press Secretary] was again forced to defend by stressing Patel was going to have a “testing day” – that is true, and it’s because she broke the ministerial code.

Cornwall to build hundreds of new coves in preparation for smugglers post Brexit

Cornwall is set for a construction tidal wave with the announcement that the Home Office is finalising plans to construct hundreds of new prime location coves.

28TH JULY 2018 BY GARY SEARCHLIGHT now, in 2020, looking prescient

LCD VIEWS www.lcdviews.com 

Government mocking and Brexit related satire, as well as general nonsense now and then. They’re playing us all for fools so let’s laugh in their faces.

”Just imagine the view,” a spokesman for the department told LCD Views, “and then imagine spending your summer with a pick and a shovel in hand preparing Cornwall for life after Brexit.”

The pitch is a clear play for the lazy students that infest the country doing nothing of much use, while moaning about having over £50K in debt and no freedom of movement.

”If they’re too lazy to pick fruit,” Owen Paterson posted on Twitter, in support of the initiative, “they can at least knock a few rocks about in the southwest. It’s their patriotic duty. You don’t need a burgundy passport to leave your London swat and go to Cornwall. Yet.”

But critics of the plan have leapt on what they see as a flaw in the scheme.

”The plans show the new coves being built inland,” professional smuggler, Mrs Arrrrr, told us, while shouldering a barrel of rum, “It’s not much use to a pirate if you can’t access the cove from a safe anchor in an inlet. They’re just ditches. Someone could come to grief in them.”

LCD Views would like to take this opportunity to chastise the limits on the thinking of so called experts like Mrs Arrrr. If we can’t think outside of the box, we’re not going to make the most of the opportunities presented by Brexit.

”This is a chance to trade with the world,” professional muppet Paterson opined, while sitting in his Chinese car, using his American designed phone and wearing his Australian made sheepskin boots, “mostly the trade will be in insulin, insults, blood products and fresh produce. And whatever else the EU has banned us producing in the U.K. for far too long. I say seize it with both hands and one leg. Arrrr indeed.”

Devon woman ‘had Covid last December’

A woman from Devon says an antibody test proves she caught the coronavirus in the UK in December of last year – more than a month before the first cases were confirmed in the country.

Paul Greaves www.devonlive.com 

Sue Reader, 59, from Ogwell, believes she caught the virus during a trip to arrange travel documents from the Chinese Visa Application Centre in London on December 16.

She did not develop symptoms until December 30 and immediately self-isolated. She displayed all the usual symptoms we now associate with Covid-19, including acute shortness of breath, fatigue and loss of smell.

The NHS worker had an antibody test in June which proved she had contracted the virus.

If correct, Sue’s experience adds to growing evidence that the virus was active in the UK much earlier than first thought. The virus is understood to have started in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The UK did not confirm its first Covid positive case until January 31, 2020.

Sue said: “It just seems to me the government are in complete denial by saying they don’t believe it was in this country before the end of January.

“I’m not suggesting I was the first person in the country to catch it but I may well have been the first in Devon, simply because of the circumstances in which I contracted it and the fact I was at home in bed completely floored by it.”

Sue was staying at her parents home in Henley-on-Thames when she visited the Chinese Visa Application Centre in the City of London on December 16. She was planning a holiday to the Great Wall of China and needed the appropriate travel documentation.

She said: “Inside the building it was full of people coughing and spluttering. I always notice this type of behaviour because I am the type of person who never gets sick. I lead a very healthy lifestyle but the coughing was very apparent.”

While at the visa centre Sue was busy photocopying documents, touching cash machines, having face-to-face discussion with staff, using the photo booth. She believes this was the crucial period when she caught the virus.

“That was the 16th and basically it wasn’t until the 30th when I was suddenly completely and absolutely overwhelmed,” she says.

“I had a high temperature, I was aching, I couldn’t breathe and I was hallucinating. I remember saying to my family ‘do not let anybody come into my room. Whatever I’ve got nobody wants it’.

“My father is 88 and has heart failure and I was very conscious that I could not stay because whatever I had was serious. I don’t think he would be here now if I had stayed. I knew it was a virus and not just a cold or something like that.”

Despite her failing health Sue managed to drive back to Ogwell near Newton Abbot on January 1. She spent the next month in complete isolation, mostly sleeping, not leaving the house.

By this time there had been a number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China. The first known death from the illness was in China on January 11. In the UK, the virus was almost unknown outside of medical circles.

The first cases in the country were not confirmed until January 31 in York, though anecdotal evidence suggests it was here before that date. An 84-year-old man from Kent who died on January 30 is certified as the earliest Covid-related death in the UK. Peter Attwood showed symptoms on December 15, 2019.

Sue says: “It wasn’t like anything I had experienced before. I didn’t know anything about coronavirus at the time, nobody did. I remember the first time I heard about it and it was like a light bulb moment.

“I was extremely ill. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was on my own and very ill for about a month.”

Antibody tests were offered to NHS staff in June this year and Sue, who was convinced she’d had the virus, decided to take one. It came back positive for Covid antibodies, meaning her body’s immune system had built up a level of protection and she had indeed had the virus.

She wanted to donate plasma to help those convalesing with the virus but was told her veins were were too narrow for it to be safe.

What worries her now is the long term toll the virus has taken on her body. Sue displays ongoing health issues commonly connected to ‘Long Covid’.

“I’m a keen gardener and my allotment is at the bottom of a hill. By the time I walk back I’m completely out of breath for five minutes. For me my biggest anxiety is that nobody knows the long term effect it has on people’s health.

“What I don’t understand is why they are not looking at a person’s lung capacity. I don’t know what long term damage has been done to my lungs and nobody seems to be considering it.”

She also thinks the incubation period of the disease is longer than commonly thought.

“I hadn’t been unwell in the 14 days between my visit to the visa centre and the 30th and had carried on as normal over Christmas. But nobody else in the household got ill, not my father or grandmother.

“It is my belief, because of my personal experience, that you start being contagious when the coughing begins.”

Current health advice is that people appear to be most infectious just before they develop symptoms (namely two days before they develop symptoms) and early in their illness.

Areas of Devon that may stay in lockdown if trends continue

Latest research shows which parts of Devon are set to be experiencing high rates of infection when lockdown ends on December 2.

Paul Greaves www.devonlive.com

According to Imperial College London’s research infection rates will remain high in almost all parts of the county.

Red Zones on their map project which local authority areas will be Covid hotpots with more than 100 cases per week.

It is those areas that are likely to face the toughest levels of restrictions.

In our region, there is a 99 per cent probability that North Devon will have more than 100 cases per week by December 2.

Imperial College London's research map showing projected hotpots on December 2
Imperial College London’s research map showing projected hotpots on December 2

East Devon (98 per cent); Torridge (94 per cent); Torbay (92 per cent) follow close behind.

England’s lockdown is set to end on December 2 and will be replaced by a tiered system of restrictions, according to the Government.

The entire UK is working on a joint approach to rules for Christmas – with speculation bans on indoor gathering and limits on the number of people who meet could be lifted.

SAGE experts say for every day the rules are eased the country would need five days of ‘lockdown’ to bring the virus back under control.

Researchers define a hotspot as a local authority where there are more than 50 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of the population per week. See the map here.

All local authority areas of Devon have a greater than 80 per cent probability of having more than 50 cases by December 2.

If the definition of a hotpost is upped to 100 cases per 100,000, then only Teignbridge has a probability of less than 50 per cent (43).

South Hams (88 per cent); West Devon (80 per cent); Mid Devon (85 per cent) and Exeter (78 per cent) complete the county.

Although the rates appear high the infection rates in Devon and the South West are projected to be lower than most other parts of the country – a picture consistent with infection rates throughout the health crisis.

In England, Hull, Swale, Hartlepool, East Lindsey, Dudley and Stoke-on-Trent are predicted to have some of the highest infection rates.

Just under 300 local authorities have an 80 per cent or greater chance of being a hotspot on December 2, according to the study.

Covid: Devon Cliff Holiday Park confirms 25 jobs at risk

A holiday park said 25 jobs were at risk of redundancy due to the “seismic” effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

BBC news

Devon Cliffs Holiday Park in Exmouth currently employs about 500 people at the seaside destination.

Owners Bourne Leisure said it had made the decision after witnessing a “significant change” in the hospitality and tourism industry.

It said the company would be consulting with staff over the coming weeks, and was “committed” to redeployment.

A spokesperson for Bourne Leisure said: “The pandemic has had a seismic effect on the tourism and hospitality sector and we are saddened that it is leading to significant change and jobs being at risk.

“As a company, we are committed to redeploying as many of our highly valued team members as possible to other roles within our brands.”

The company said its proposed structure would allow it to emerge from the pandemic “in a position to move forward strongly”.