From today’s Sunday Times:
Boris Johnson is set to axe Priti Patel as home secretary in his next reshuffle amid questions in Downing Street over her “competence” — as it emerged that a report into her conduct found that she told civil servants they were “f***ing useless”.
The prime minister circled the wagons to protect Patel last week, rejecting an official finding that she had bullied officials and broken the ministerial code of conduct.
But multiple sources say he has had conversations about replacing her as home secretary when he recasts his cabinet in the New Year.
Kit Malthouse, the policing minister who was Johnson’s deputy mayor for policing in London and is a confidant of the PM, is favourite to take over the job, with Michael Gove and Dominic Raab also in the frame. Patel, 48, who is popular with the Tory grassroots, is tipped to be made party chairwoman.
Details of Johnson’s thinking emerged as those who have read the report into her conduct say it recounts multiple examples of “shouting, screaming and swearing”.
“She kept telling civil servants they were f***ing useless,” a source said. “She would storm out of her office and say: ‘Why is everyone so f***ing useless?’ She would tell officials their work was f***ing useless?”
Despite telling MPs last week to “form a square around the Prittster”, insiders say the prime minister has tired of Patel’s repeated failure to get a grip on the flow of asylum seekers across the Channel.
“The view of the political operation in No 10 was always that she should be protected,” a senior Tory said. “But there is also a view that she should be reshuffled on competence grounds. There is continual frustration that the Home Office has not got a grip on things, the small boats in particular.”
The insider said Johnson was “impressed” by Malthouse’s grasp of policy and others say he has acted as a personal support to Johnson since he fell ill with the virus in April.
“Kit sees him to talk policy but they end up sitting in the garden putting the world to rights,” one friend said.
A second official described Patel as “ineffective” and said it would be “sensible” to move her to another post.
Patel’s camp did not deny that she used the words “f***ing useless” but insisted her comments were never directed “at individuals”.
“People in real life do not carry on as if everything is like an Enid Blyton novel and sometimes things go wrong and people say things out of frustration that they would not say to their mother,” said an ally of the home secretary.
Patel has told friends she has never suffered so much sexism and racism as she did in the Home Office, where she clashed with mandarins over borders. “Priti has worked in the private sector in FTSE 100 companies but the racism and misogyny she has endured at the Home Office has been the worst of her career,” said one friend.
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