PRITI PATEL is said to be “absolutely livid” over accusations that she had been bullying officials, and MI5 was frustrated with her.
The home secretary has reportedly demanded an inquiry into the “damaging leaks” about her office and style of functioning, even as allies rallied in her support.
One major allegation against Patel was that she had tried to oust Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam.
The Home Office, on Sunday (23), sought to douse the raging rumour fire.
“The home secretary and permanent secretary are deeply concerned about the number of false allegations appearing in the media,” said a rare Home Office joint statement.
“They are focused on delivering on the Home Office’s hugely important agenda, which includes creating an immigration system that works for the UK, putting more police on the streets and keeping the public safe from terrorism.”
A report in the Sunday Times had quoted unnamed sources alleging that MI5 found Patel “extremely difficult to deal with” and that she “doesn’t grasp the subtleties of intelligence”.
The insinuation, however, was dismissed by a security source in the know of things.
“Reports suggesting that the home secretary and MI5 do not have a strong working relationship are simply untrue,” the source said.
“The home secretary is briefed daily on intelligence matters in exactly the same way as any previous post holder. No information is being withheld. Any report suggesting otherwise is simply wrong and does not serve the public interest.”
Reports said attempts were on to “undermine” Patel, adding that the “suggestion that MI5 is restricting briefings is about as damaging as it gets for a home secretary”.
Security minister James Brokenshire called allegations against Patel “absolute nonsense”.
He added that there was “huge frustration” in the Home Office over “false accusations and assertions that in so many ways have been swirling around”.
“Yes, she [Patel] is demanding, but in that role you have to be because you are dealing with some of the most sensitive, some of the most challenging things that you have to deal with across government,” Brokenshire told Sky News.
“I think the home secretary is absolutely focused on the public good, the agenda that we’ve set around policing, on immigration and indeed around counter-terrorism and security.”
Former Conservative cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, meanwhile, hinted at misogyny as she slammed allegations against the home secretary.
“I’m sick of spiteful briefings against women in high public office,” she told BBC Radio 4.
“It happens again and again and I don’t believe these allegations against Priti Patel.
“I think she’s a highly effective home secretary and I think whoever is making these briefings should stop it because I think they are unfair and they are damaging.”
The Times quoted one of the Patel’s allies as saying: “Priti is absolutely livid. The blob [a derogatory term for senior officials] is trying to kill her. She’s determined to get to the bottom of it.”