‘Bullying, money rows’: Indian-origin UK ministers under fire
Home secretary Priti Patel has faced accusations of bullying and trying to replace the top official in the come office, while chancellor Rishi Sunak and attorney-general Suella Braverman became targets soon after their elevation in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent reshuffle.
Patel, who has been in the news for her pro-Brexit views and new immigration plans, allegedly “bullied and belittled” officials and sought to remove Philip Rutnam, the senior-most official in her department. Downing Street was reportedly asked to intervene.
The row was reported by The Times and the BBC, but has since been denied. According to reports, there has been a “genuine disagreement” between Patel and Rutnam. The Home Office said “no formal complaints” had been made about Patel.
According to business minister Nadhim Zahawi, Patel is “utterly professional” and “works day and night”. Asked if she were a bully, he said: “No, I don’t think she is at all. I’ve worked with Priti in the past on several campaigns. I’ve known her literally for 25 years. She is a brilliant, collegiate team player.”
Sunak, who took over as the chancellor, was soon attacked by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who questioned about his past business dealings: “Clearly, Mr Sunak has questions to answer about his past activities and associations”.
Labour said McDonnell posed the questions following reported “revelations that Sunak’s close associate Patrick Degorce participated in a multi-million pound tax avoidance scheme, Sunak’s old firm TCI Fund Management (UK) was sued for violating disclosure requirements under American law while Sunak worked at the firm, TCI Fund Management has had links to privatised healthcare, and TCI Fund Management appears to have been part of a web of companies with Cayman Islands links”.
However, the Guardian quoted an unnamed Treasury source as saying: “We will take no lectures from the Labour party, who seem to be stuck playing the same old political games rather than listening to what the public wants”.
“The chancellor is focused on levelling up and delivering on the promises made to the British in last year’s election.”
Braverman, who is of Goa origin, was the subject of a report in The Observer, claiming she is a member of a Buddhist sect, which reportedly venerates its controversial founder who faced charges of being a serial sexual predator.
The report claimed that Braverman’s links with the sect “is likely to raise questions about her personal beliefs and whether this could affect her judgment as the government’s senior legal expert”. She has refused to comment on the report.
Patel, Sunak and Braverman are among four Indian-origin ministers at Johnson’s cabinet table; the fourth is Alok Sharma, Business secretary.