November 21, 2020
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to tone down an independent report that found one of his most senior ministers had bullied staff, two media reports said on Saturday.
Johnson on Friday backed his Home Secretary Priti Patel, despite an inquiry finding she had broken the ministerial code by shouting and swearing at staff. The author of the report, the government’s ethics adviser Alex Allan, resigned.
On Saturday, the Times newspaper and the BBC said Johnson had tried and failed to convince Allan to tone down his findings, particularly the assertion that Patel’s behaviour amounted to bullying.
“He read all of it and didn’t think Alex’s findings accorded with the evidence itself,” The Times quoted a source in the government’s cabinet office as saying. “He spoke to Alex and asked him if he’d change the tone of it. Alex said no.”
A spokeswoman for Johnson’s office said the report reflected Allan’s thinking. “As you would expect, the prime minister spoke to Sir Alex Allan to further his understanding of the issues. Sir Alex’s conclusions are entirely his own.”
Patel has apologised for her behaviour and Johnson, who decided the ministerial code had not been breached, said he had full faith in his interior minister.
The issue comes at a difficult time for Johnson, who is trying to reset his government after his top adviser Dominic Cummings left Downing Street last week. His leadership and judgment has also been questioned over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Mark Potter)