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Priti Patel is a force to be reckoned with in terms of politics, she has been a member of the Parliament for Witham since 2010 and has now served as Secretary of State for the Home Department since 2019. She has broken many barriers, including being the first British, Asian women to become home secretary.
Recently, Ms Patel has been faced with allegations that she mistreated staff in her current role as home secretary. Bullying allegations then emerged after the Cabinet Office launched a formal inquiry into claims that Ms Patel had mistreated her permanent secretary. Ms Patel was accused of shouting at a former aide with “unprovoked aggression” before removing her from her job
It then emerged on Monday that a former aide to Ms Patel received a £25,000 pay-out after allegedly being bullied in 2015 by the minister. The BBC claims that they had seen legal correspondence claim that the woman had taken an overdose following the incident, when Ms Patel was an employment minister. Ms Patel has denied these claims. It is important to note that the account by BBC suggests that the aide was seriously mentally unstable and had experienced workplace bullying before she even met Priti Patel.
These claims have followed a lot of controversy, women have been fighting for power within politics for years, and now that this has been achieved, these successful women are being belittled to their shoes, hair, and attitude.
We are reminded that we shouldn’t call successful women ‘bossy’ as these are sexist insults against women, who are showing the kind of resolve and determination that men are celebrated for.
But, these rules don’t appear to be practiced. Theresa May was labelled as an ‘ice queen’ Margaret Thatcher was called the ‘Iron Lady’ and now Home Secretary Priti Patel has been faced with scrutiny with being labelled as both a ‘bully’ and a ‘scheming’ for allegedly disagreeing with the officials in her department.
The President of the General Assembly said ‘When women work to rise to the top, whether this be in politics, business or community advocacy, they are constantly faced with discrimination, social stereotypes and double standards.’
But what is it about female politicians, in particular, right-wing woman, which means that strength is mistaken as a character flaw.
Ms Patel is by no means the first cabinet minister to fall out with her permanent secretary and is certainly not the first Home Secretary to fall out with Sir Philip. His ‘officious and obstructive manner’ has also seen him conflict with Amber Rudd, who later mysteriously found herself the subject of negative briefing during the unfolding of the Windrush crisis.
The course of the allegations has led many to believe that the allegations are embedded in sexism, one source claimed that their suspicion was ‘Sir Philip Rutman couldn’t handle that a woman was his boss.’ However, both the predecessors for these allegations were female.
People who have worked with Ms. Patel express that she has a ‘robust’ manner. However, her manner was defended by Dan Hodges who stated that ‘anyone who wants to drive through change in a major department, can’t do so without having finely chiselled elbows’ and emphasises that ‘to follow the career of any senior woman MP, the allegation that she is a bully is never far behind.’
Dianne abbot also suffered allegations when she was elected as the first black woman MP, she represented a challenge to the political elite that was years ahead of its time. Much of the abuse Abbott received was classified as both racist and misogynistic. If we are to acknowledge that, then it is important to be honest about how the campaign is now being fought against Priti Patel; by those supposed to be her allies.
When asked if the briefings against Ms Patel were driven by an element of “misogyny”, Ms. Villiers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m sick of spiteful briefings against women in high public office” she went on to say that “It happens again and again and I don’t believe these allegations against Priti Patel.”
Liam Fox also tweeted his support for Priti Patel stating that he has always known her to be “courteous, diligent and fair” and that the recent attack in the House of Commons by Jeremy Corbyn is “nakedly partisan act from a failed and discredited politician.”
It is important to recognise that any form of bullying is not acceptable or condoned. When looking at women in power, there is a trend in how they are portrayed, to reiterate, Margret Thatcher was labelled the ‘Iron lady’ and Theresa May the ‘Ice Queen’ instead of women who uphold strong values.