The international development secretary has been under a cloud since last week, when it emerged that she had held a series of meetings with Israeli leaders while vacationing in Israel this August. The meetings broke convention, and possibly also the ministerial code, as the Foreign Office was not informed in advance.
WORLD Updated: Nov 09, 2017 09:26 IST
Hindustan Times, London
International development secretary Priti Patel resigned on Wednesday evening, nearly two months after she met Israeli leaders during a family holiday at Tel Aviv without informing her higher-ups in the Theresa May government.
The 45-year-old politician tendered her resignation after a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street, which took place upon being summoned to London from an official tour of Africa. She is the second cabinet-level minister to leave in a week after Michael Fallon, who had earlier resigned as defence secretary over allegations of sexual harassment.
Patel has been under a cloud since last week, when it emerged that she had held a series of meetings with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while vacationing in Israel this August. The meetings broke convention, and possibly also the ministerial code, as the Foreign Office was not informed in advance.
Even as a political storm arose over Patel reportedly planning to give departmental aid to the Israeli army for a project at the Golan Heights in Syria, an area occupied by Israel in 1967 but not recognised by London, she tendered an apology as well as some details of 12 meetings conducted by her.
The situation turned worse when it was revealed that she had held two more meetings with Israeli leaders that were not disclosed to May, who reprimanded her on Monday for the earlier discretions.
Worse, reports said she also visited the Golan Heights – an area not usually visited by British leaders and officials in keeping with Britain’s official stand on the issue – during the holiday. Few party MPs backed her amid demands for her sacking.
Patel said in her resignation letter that while it had been a “tremendous privilege” to serve in the cabinet, her “actions fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state”.
“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated. I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened, and offer my resignation,” she added.
Responding to Patel’s letter, May wrote that while it was “right” that Israel and the UK work together, “that must be done formally”. She added that she was “glad” to accept Patel’s apology on Monday and “welcomed” her clarification, but as more details came to light, “it is right that you have decided to resign”.
“You should take pride in what you have achieved as secretary of state,” she added.
Patel was the first Indian-origin MP to hold a cabinet-level post in British political history. The row added to the political woes of May, who is already grappling with tough Brexit negotiations in Brussels.
The daughter of a Gujarati couple who migrated to Britain in the 1970s from Uganda, Patel was first elected to the House of Commons in 2010. She steadily moved up the Conservative ladder to be considered as one of the top three next likely party leaders.
A prominent pro-Brexit minister, she has been in the forefront of the Conservative government’s interface with the Indian community in Britain since 2010, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in November 2015.