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Anorak | Theresa May and Boris Johnson hang Priti Patel out to dry

Theresa May and Boris Johnson hang Priti Patel out to dry

by | 8th, November 2017

Priti Patel (Tory MP, Brexiteer and International Development Secretary) is mired. And some people are pleased.

George Osborne (former Tory MP and arch-Remianer) uses his editorship on the London Evening Standard to report that thousands of people logged on to a website to track Patel’s flying back from Uganda. “Priti Patel’s ‘flight back to London’ tracked by tens of thousands of people as she faces Cabinet axe,” trumpets the paper. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says Patel’s sacking seemed “almost inevitable now”. Adding: “If May doesn’t sack her now it’s an ongoing sore that smacks of weakness.”

The furore is over Patel’s meetings with Israeli officials in August. Patel attended 12 meetings in 12 days, including one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under the terms of protocol, she was supposed to tell the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The meetings were organised by Conservative Friends of Israel honorary president Lord Polak, who accompanied her to all but one of them.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that while on her hols Patel visited an Israeli military field hospital in the Golan Heights – the land seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. The idea was for Israeli medics to treat Syrian refugees. “Officials,” says the BBC, rejected her idea as “inappropriate”. (The views of the wounded and bereft who risked life and limb to flee the barbarity of ISIS and Assad are unknown.)

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman tells us: “The Secretary of State did discuss potential ways to provide medical support for Syrian refugees who are wounded and who cross into the Golan for aid. The Israeli army runs field hospitals there to care for Syrians wounded in the civil war. But there is no change in policy in the area. The UK does not provide any financial support to the Israeli army.”

Says Patel:

“This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for myself. While away I had the opportunity to meet a number of people and organisations. I am publishing a list of who I met.‎ The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was underway‎.

“In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be mis-read, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.

The Jewish Chronicle has more. It says: “Number 10 instructed… Patel not to include her meeting with the Israel foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on 18 September in her list of undisclosed meetings with Israelis… [A meeting Rotem broadcasts on social media]. But the JC understands, from two different sources, that Ms Patel did disclose the meeting with Mr Rotem but was told by Number 10 not to include it as it would embarrass the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In addition, the JC can reveal that although Ms Patel’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not authorised in advance, the British government was made aware of it within hours.”

The paper’s Stephen Pollard then gets a scoop:

Today Number Ten confirmed that it had only found out this morning about her plan to hand some British aid money over to the Israelis to use as part of their (legendarily good) aid missions.

It had no idea. And then you get to wonder what part Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, plays in all this:

But this puzzles me. Well before last week’s James Landale scoop about Ms Patel’s meetings with Israeli politicians, I was told very matter of factly that there would soon be an announcement of cooperation between the UK and Israel over aid in Africa – that we would divert some of our aid money to the Israelis to fund some of their aid work there.

I was told that it had been signed off between DfID and Number Ten, but that the FCO had kicked off because it felt its toes were being trodden on.

In which case, it’s not Patel who should go; it’s May.

 



Posted: 8th, November 2017 | In: News, Politicians Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink