Friday, 27 November 2020 14:14

Bullying Still Rife at Westminster

It seems that amidst all the bluster surrounding the pandemic, lockdown and which area is going to be in which tier, the story regarding bullying allegations against Home Secretary Priti Patel last week, has slipped almost innocently by. Westminster, it would appear, still works by its own rules on this matter and the Prime Minister’s behaviour is a poor example to others.

It was alleged that Ms Patel had breached the ministerial code of behaviour and was accused of shouting and swearing at staff. Indeed, former Home Office minister Sir Philip Rutnam is suing the government for constructive dismissal, alleging that Ms Patel had "created fear".

Considering the state of the country, the uncertainty of people’s jobs and the attention that has been turned towards Mental Health during the pandemic, this really should have been a much more significant story. Amazingly, the establishment that creates the laws the rest of us must abide by, doesn’t currently have formal disciplinary procedures; instead discipline is handled by their parties. An independent channel for staff to complain about MP’s behaviour was only introduced under le last Prime Minister and even that only offers ‘emotional’ support and guidance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s behaviour during this episode has been particularly questionable. It was he who ordered the investigation into Ms Patel’s behaviour by Alex Allan, the then standards chief. However, when the investigation found that the allegations proved to be founded, Mr Johnson chose to simply disregard the results and declared his support for Ms Patel, saying he didn’t think she was a bully.

Mr Allan resigned from his post following Mr Johnson’s declaration.

Having presided over numerous cases of bullying and harassment allegations over the years, we believe we would have seen a very different outcome had this incident occurred within a business or other organisation. Ms Patel’s defence that “issues were not pointed out to me” would not of held much sway. Everybody has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and individuals, particularly those in positions of power and seniority, must be aware of the impact that their behaviour has on others.

Ms Patel did apologise and say that if she upset anybody it was completely unintentional. However, where bullying is concerned, it is not how behaviour or actions are intended but how they are received which matters. So despite her apology Ms Patel was effectively found guilty and some action should have been taken against her.

Examining Mr Johnson’s behaviour, we should remember that bullying is not restricted to intimidation, shouting, and swearing at others. Bullying comes in many forms including exclusion of others and, as in Mr Johnson’s case, undermining others. Having appointed Alex Allan to carry out an investigation to then simply disregard the findings is, we believe, just as much a case of bullying as that alleged against Ms Patel. The fact that it led to Mr Allen’s resignation is, for us, another potential case of constructive dismissal.

Interestingly, the Ministerial Code was introduced just after the second World War so it’s not as though minsters haven’t had an opportunity to get used to it. Notwithstanding, treating others with dignity and respect should be a “given”, especially for those who run the country. The fact that they even have to have a code raises many questions in itself.

We would recommend that both Ms Patel and Mr Johnson attend one of our Dignity at Work workshops. They are beneficial for all organisations and help to remind staff about behavioural expectations and respect for others. Call us for more information on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 1222 times Last modified on Friday, 27 November 2020 14:25


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