Boris Johnson’s adviser on the ministerial code has resigned after the PM backed Home Secretary Priti Patel over a bullying inquiry.
Standards chief Sir Alex Allan found that Ms Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour.
Sir Alex – who was asked by the PM to investigate the allegations – found the code had been broken, Mr Johnson took a different view and he has the final say.
But the PM rejected his findings, saying he did not think Ms Patel was a bully and had “full confidence” in her.
The prime minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton has said that Mr Johnson did not tolerate bullying, but did not consider Priti Patel to be a bully.
“These were extremely serious allegations that were made and that have been dealt with in detail, not just by Sir Alex Allan but also by the prime minister,” she said.
“The prime minister does personally take these allegations exceedingly seriously.
“He loathes bullying. He takes it very seriously and recognises that it is very difficult for people to come forward and raise concerns. It is a brave thing to do. He knows that.
“He did say that he would not tolerate bullying. He hasn’t tolerated bullying. It is not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully.”
Ms Patel released a statement saying she was sorry “that my behaviour in the past has upset people”.
Ministers are normally expected to resign if they break the code and there are no known cases of a minister staying in post following a breach.
Sir Alex announced his resignation as the prime minister released his statement on the report’s findings.
“I recognise that it is for the prime minister to make a judgement on whether actions by a minister amount to a breach of the ministerial code,” he said.
“But I feel that it is right that I should now resign from my position as the prime minister’s independent adviser on the code.”
Questions about Ms Patel’s conduct as a government minister arose following the dramatic resignation of the Home Office’s most senior civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, in February.
It came after reports of a bitter feud between himself and Ms Patel.
At the time, Sir Philip revealed he had received allegations of Ms Patel “shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands”, and argued her behaviour had “created fear”.
He said he had “encouraged” the home secretary “to change her behaviour”.
His departure as the Home Office’s permanent secretary is still the subject of an employment tribunal, with Sir Philip pursuing a claim for constructive dismissal from the £175,000-per-year role.
In his resignation statement, he revealed the Cabinet Office had “offered me a financial settlement that would have avoided this outcome”.
Around the same time as Sir Philip’s exit, further allegations about Ms Patel’s behaviour in government also emerged, which prompted the Cabinet Office review.