Priti Patel is at the centre of another controversy over her treatment of civil service staff after it emerged that she tried to have her director of communications removed from the job before Christmas.
The home secretary asked for Andy Tighe, the head of news at the Home Office, to be moved out of the department last year, and he decided to take retirement.
HuffPost reported that Patel wanted Philip Rutnam, the department’s permanent secretary, to sack Tighe on Christmas Eve and he refused, which led to some of the tensions between the pair.
It has emerged over the last week that Patel also attempted to have Rutnam ousted from his post, which has led to a bitter briefing row between their allies.
A former Home Office staff member who worked there at the time said Tighe’s departure had been discussed long before Christmas Eve and he had decided to take retirement as a result. The ex-insider said Tighe was good at his job but Patel had wanted more people in senior roles in the department whom she trusted.
The Home Office did not deny the claim that Patel asked for Tighe to be sacked on Christmas Eve, nor that she had wanted him to leave.
A Home Office spokesperson said:“The home secretary and permanent secretary are deeply concerned about the number of false allegations appearing in the media. They are focused on delivering on the Home Office’s hugely important agenda, which includes creating an immigration system that works for the UK, putting more police on the streets and keeping the public safe from terrorism.”
Over the last week No 10 has made moves to defuse the public spat, with both Patel and Rutnam told to stop the sniping and restore calm in the Home Office.
The row originally blew up when it was claimed that Patel had tried to get rid of Rutnam after he raised complaints about her alleged bullying and belittling of staff.
It then further escalated with claims that MI5 had restricted Patel’s access to security information because it did not trust her, which the intelligence agency and home secretary strongly denied.
The department has said there have been no formal complaints about Patel’s behaviour.
Rutnam made a rare public appearance on Thursday at a policing conference but made only a brief allusion to the reports about his poor relationship with Patel.
He told the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners summit in Westminster: “You probably have already heard a great deal more about permanent secretaries in the last few days than you ever expected to. But be reassured, I am not going to talk about that. I am going to talk about what really matters, which is cutting crime and building a law enforcement system that is more capable, more resilient and better placed for the future.”
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