• Savannah Fishel

A Priti Big Gaslighter

On the same day this week, we saw Boris Johnson cut anti-bullying schemes for LGBTQ+ kids and defend the Home Secretary - along with various other Ministers, including our Health Secretary - after an inquiry found her guilty of bullying. These decisions speak volumes about the priorities, cronyism and callous nature of the current administration.

If you felt that familiar sense of déjà vu when the story about Patel broke, you’re not alone. Bullying allegations against the Home Secretary are nothing new: they stretch back to 2017, with officials citing her behaviour as the cause for collapsing, moving departments and stepping down completely.

Former permanent secretary at the Home Office, Sir David Normington, said there had been "no acknowledgement" by either Patel or Johnson that "she was found to have bullied staff, possibly in three departments - not just in the home office". Her ‘apology’, “I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people”, is a classic and dangerous example of citing a victim’s weakness as reason for their suffering, shirking responsibility, awareness and compassion. Johnson’s cover-up of another member of his inner circle is unsurprising given his defence of Cummings after the infamous lockdown breach despite national uproar. But the cover-up was merely a preamble for the feeble and insulting defence provided: Patel didn’t know she was breaking the ministerial code. I paraphrase Caroline Lucas MP: a Home Secretary who isn’t aware of what bullying means is a problem enough in itself.

Various Conservative MPs have defended Patel, such as Julie Marson MP who claimed that she was merely a “strong and decisive woman” in a “man’s world”. Implying that victims of Patel’s behaviour cannot distinguish between bullying and strength in femininity is an insulting manipulation. Bullying by any person of any gender - in Westminster or anywhere else – is wrong. Gaslighting victims of bullying should not be taken lightly, especially when it is validated by the most powerful people in the country.

What kind of workplace steps aside for bullies in powerful positions? What kind of society takes the side of the bully and not the bullied? Patel must stand down, Johnson must stand up and society must come together to say – and show - that bullying is always, unequivocally, unacceptable.

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