London: Relief for British PM Boris Johnson as he successfully fought off a high court challenge over his decision to back Priti Patel after accusations that she had bullied civil servants.
The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, brought a judicial review after the prime minister decided last year to go against the findings of his then adviser on ministerial standards in order to back the home secretary.
In a ruling released on December 6, Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Justice Steyn, dismissed the FDA’s claim. Lewis said Johnson had not misdirected himself as to the provisions of the ministerial code when reaching his decision.
The judge said: “Reading the statement (made by Johnson) as a whole, and in context, we do not consider that the prime minister misdirected himself in that way.”
In an investigation into Patel’s behavior, published in November last year, Sir Alex Allan, Johnson’s then adviser on ministerial standards, found Patel had not always treated civil servants with “consideration and respect”. Allan left his role in Downing Street after Johnson contradicted his advice.
Johnson, the arbiter of the ministerial code, said Patel was “unaware” of the impact she had and he was “reassured” that she was “sorry for inadvertently upsetting those with whom she was working.” After “weighing up all the factors”, he concluded the code had not been breached.
However, the FDA said the ruling represented a step forward for civil servants because the high court had confirmed the prohibition on bullying, discrimination, and harassment in the ministerial code was justiciable in the courts.
The prime minister welcomed the ruling, his official spokesperson said. “It supports our longstanding position that the PM is the arbiter of the code, and ministers must retain the confidence of the prime minister to maintain in office,” he said.