Boris Johnson is criticism after he attempted to get Tory MPs to rally behind Priti Patel after an inquiry found that she had “shouted and swore” at members of her staff at the Home Office.
The Home Secretary’s behaviour was described in a damming report partially published by Sir Alex Allan to “meet the definition of bullying” but that her actions could have been “unintentional.”
However, despite issuing an apology on Friday afternoon where she said “I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people,” the prime minister has urged his Tory colleagues to rally around Patel who he dubbed ‘The Prittster’ in a WhatsApp message.
The message which was shared by Harry Cole of The Sun read: ‘Dead right folks. Time to form a square about the prittster.’
EXC: PM whatsapp order to Tory MPs: “Time to form a square around the prittster”
Pippa Crerar of The Mirror added that Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said that the PM ‘loathes bullying and will be taking the allegations ’very seriously.’ Stratton was reportedly pressed on why Johnson has asked other Tories to rally around Patel to which she replied: ‘This has been a testing day for her’.
PM sends order to Tory MPs via Whatsapp: "Time to form a square around the Prittster".
Asked why, his press secre… https://t.co/Zgts5d9Jls
Johnson’s response to this report has sparked some backlash against the prime minister who appears to be attempting to project Patel and using a nickname in what is an otherwise serious story, which has coincidentally occurred during Anti-bullying week in the UK.
Our first response on seeing this shouldn't be laughing at "The Prittster" but outrage that rather than tackle bull… https://t.co/QHbWwueXfg
— Stephen Mawhinney (@Stephen Mawhinney)
I fear I've lived too long.... https://t.co/uOiE4fxc3o
Despite the backlash, the prime minister’s call for unity does appear to have worked as a number of Tory MPs, including Iain Duncan Smith, James Cleverly, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrea Leadsom have all supported the Home Secretary on Twitter.
.@pritipatel is a formidable Home Secretary. Under her stewardship the HO has recruited thousands of police office… https://t.co/c1SL3rP5kh
I have known @pritipatel for many years as a friend and colleague. Yes, she’s strong and forthright in her views w… https://t.co/DvZai4Ect7
— Andrea Leadsom MP (@Andrea Leadsom MP)
Meanwhile, there have since been calls for Patel to resign from her position from former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell with the head of the civil servants union, Dave Penman accusing Johnson of ignoring the evidence.
I cannot believe he does not understand how civil servants will view his decision to ignore the evidence that the home secretary bullied her staff and, as such, breached the ministerial code. The only conclusion that can be reached is he simply doesn't care.