Labour told of ‘bullying and harassment’ claims against Priti Patel

The Labour Party has been informed of "bullying and harassment" claims against Priti Patel, Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman said today.

The party heaped pressure on the beleaguered Home Secretary by revealing an unknown number of staff had come forward to complain about her – as well as a second ex-minister.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “In the last 24 hours we have been contacted by staff, these relate to Priti Patel and one other former government minister.

"These relate to bullying and harassment claims from government staff.

"These paint a picture that is not an isolated incident but a pattern of behaviour.”

  • Priti Patel could have to give evidence under oath as third bullying claim erupts

  • Boris Johnson declares he's 'sticking by' Priti Patel despite 'bullying cover-up' fury

Ms Patel vehemently denies all claims of wrongdoing, including of bullying.

It comes after a third shock bullying claim erupted against the Home Secretary.

Ms Patel is now facing allegations of bullying from staff in three separate government departments – the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and Department for International Development.

Allies of Ms Patel have accused "disturbing dark forces" of trying to get her sacked. Boris Johnson said today: "I'm sticking by her". But she is subject to a Cabinet Office inquiry.

Claims began at the Home Office where her most senior civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, has resigned and vowed to sue for constructive dismissal. Then it emerged a DWP staffer, who allegedly took an overdose after being bullied by Ms Patel as Employment Minister, was given a £25,000 payout.

Last night the third claim emerged, this time at DFID when she was aid minister. Reported by the BBC, Sun and Times, it is claimed she "repeatedly harassed and belittled" her private secretary so badly that he signed off with stress.

The senior staffer signed off after six months of alleged abuse and asked to be moved, The Sun said.

Last night it was confirmed Sir Philip – who refused a payout from the Home Office – has taken the first step towards bringing an employment tribunal.

His union, the FDA, has lodged a formal complaint with the mediation service ACAS.

Crucially, the legal papers name Ms Patel personally among the respondents to the case – meaning if the case proceeds to a tribunal, she could be called to give evidence under oath.

If she refuses, and the tribunal judge decides she has "relevant" evidence to give, she could be issued with a "witness order" compelling her to attend the hearing.

Failure to comply with a witness order, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence.

It is possible Ms Patel wouldn't be asked to appear before a tribunal, but an ally of Sir Philip told the Mirror: "She's a central protagonist in all this. It's almost impossible to imagine this wouldn't be the case."

A spokesperson for the Home Office told BBC Newsnight Ms Patel "categorically rejects all of these allegations".

A Tory source told the programme: "What we are seeing is a concerted effort by certain sections of the Civil Service to undermine a Home Secretary trying to deliver what people want on crime and immigration.

"It is deeply disturbing that dark forces are trying to influence the findings of a Cabinet Office inquiry."

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