26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Top official quits – plans to sue

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The senior Public Servant at the UK Home Office has resigned amid allegations that he was bullied and mistreated by his Minister, Priti Patel

Sir Philip Rutnam (pictured) said Ms Patel had carried out a “vicious and orchestrated” campaign to discredit him and undermine his authority as the ranking career official in the Ministry, which oversees law enforcement and immigration.

A 33-year Public Service veteran, Sir Philip said he had clashed repeatedly with Ms Patel over her management of the Home Office.

“I have received allegations that her conduct has included shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands — behaviour that created fear and that needed some bravery to call out,” Sir Philip said.

He said he planned to sue the Home Office for “constructive dismissal,” a legal term for being forced out of a job.

That raised the prospect of public legal hearings that could air further embarrassing details about Ms Patel’s treatment of her staff.

Sir Philip said he believed his treatment was part of a wider pattern of abusive behaviour in the Government, which has been in a state of near-constant personnel upheaval since Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party won a commanding majority in Parliament in last December’s General Election.

Mr Johnson’s influential political adviser, Dominic Cummings, has moved to remove officials he views as obstacles to Mr Johnson’s agenda.

Most of this housecleaning is going on behind closed doors, but with Sir Philip’s bitter resignation — in which he accused Ms Patel of lying — the tensions in Mr Johnson’s Government have spilled into public view.

Analysts said they could not recall a career Public Servant quitting in such a spectacle.

Head of the Public Service, Sir Mark Sedwill said in a terse statement to the British Broadcasting Corporation: “I have received and accepted with great regret the resignation of Sir Philip Rutnam. I think him for his long and dedicated career of public service.”

London, 1 March 2020

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