New British PM Boris Johnson gives top cabinet job to Priti Patel
Priti Patel, who was sacked as international development secretary in 2017, was on Wednesday appointed to the key role of Home secretary by the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – the senior-most portfolio held by an Indian-origin MP in British history.
London-born Patel, 47, has been MP from Witham in Essex since 2010. An admirer of Margaret Thatcher, she was in the forefront on behalf of the David Cameron government (2010-2015) during the November 2015 visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to London.
The office of the Home secretary is among the UK’s four ‘Great Offices of State’, others being the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary.
A fervent Brexiteer who campaigned with Johnson during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, Patel’s role as home secretary puts her in charge of immigration, among other sensitive issues such as security.
Patel will have to take a call on the large number of Indian students caught up in the language test cheating row that has increasingly come on the centrestage during the home secretaryship of her predecessor, Sajid Javid.
She will also be under pressure to implement her promise made during the referendum campaign to relax visa norms to allow the recruitment of chefs from the Indian sub-continent in the UK’s struggling Indian restaurant industry.
Patel was nominated as the ‘Indian Diaspora Champion’ by Cameron and played a frontline role in interactions between the government and the 1.5 million-strong Indian community in the UK, visiting Gujarat and India several times in recent years.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Patel international development secretary in July 2016 but sacked her in November 2017 after it emerged that she held unauthorised meetings with the Israeli government during a holiday.
Patel’s appointment is part of Johnson’s new-look government that excluded several leading lights in May’s team. It remains a Conservative government, but Johnson brought in new faces to prepare for the UK leaving the EU in 99 days on October 31.
Key roles were also expected to be given to junior ministers in the May government, Alok Sharma and Rishi Sunak. Another pro-Brexit Indian-origin Conservative MP, Suella Braverman, may also be appointed to Johnson’s team being put together on Wednesday evening and Thursday.
Sajid Javid, the Pakistan-origin home secretary in the May government with a background in banking, was appointed chancellor. He was one of the candidates for the prime ministership, but was voted out in the early stages