Priti Patel: What happened leading up to her resignation?

Priti Patel: What happened leading up to her resignation?

Priti Patel has resigned from her position in the Cabinet

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Priti Patel has hit the headlines this week in a story that seems to have grown bigger each day. But what exactly has gone on? 

Patel was the International Development Secretary until she resigned following controversy about meetings she held in Israel. She has been replaced by Penny Mordaunt.

Patel's role meant she was responsible for the UK's work to assist developing countries and for overseas development, the BBC reported.

Patel has long been a supporter of Israel and visited the country with her family in August for a holiday. But during this visit, she held several meetings with political and business figures.

This included speaking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as discussing government business with organisations.

Patel initially claimed her holiday had been paid for privately, and had “nothing to do with foreign policy”, but also said she had “commissioned departmental work on humanitarian and development partnership between Israel and the UK, and on disability".

The BBC published a report last week which claimed that these meetings had been held without Patel informing the government about them beforehand, which ministers are instructed to do.

Following her time in Israel, the minister suggested that a portion of the UK's aid budget be allocated to the Israeli army and that Britain should try and support the Israeli army's humanitarian operations in the Golan Heights.

However, others in the government slammed this as "inappropriate", as the UK does not recognise that Israel has control of the Golan Heights.

On Monday (November 6), Patel apologised to the government for the way she went about holding meetings, and for her "lack of precision” in trying to claim on Friday (November 3) that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about them. This was welcomed by government officials.

Theresa May then reminded Patel of the minister's “obligations which exist under the Ministerial Code”. A Downing Street spokesperson also said: "The Prime Minister welcomes the Secretary of State’s clarification about her trip to Israel and has accepted her apology for her handling of the matter."

However, just two days later it was reported that there were two other meetings held by Patel that she still had not declared to No.10. One of the meetings was with Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan, in Westminster, and the other was with the Israeli foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem, in New York.

The Jewish Chronicle then claimed that the government did in fact know about the meeting in New York and told Patel not to declare it with the other undisclosed meetings. Downing Street has since denied that this was the case.

Due to the controversy, the International Development Secretary was ordered back to London from an official trip to Uganda yesterday (November 9). Many observers expected Theresa May to remove her from her position upon her return, but Patel had already taken the decision to resign.

The interest in Patel's movements was such that at one point on Wednesday (November 8) more than 22,000 people were tracking her flight with Kenya Airlines. Flightradar24, a live flight tracker, claims that in normal circumstances between zero and 200 people are usually tracking flights, The Sun reported.

Her resignation letter explained that she meant well with her intentions but admitted "my actions fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated".

It went on to say: "I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation."

Despite the issues around the matter, a spokesperson for Patel claims: “The Foreign Office are clear that UK interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit.”