The only minority ethnic woman in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet, Priti Patel, was forced to step down as international development minister after reports emerged of her undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.
The 45-year-old conservative MP had cut short her trip to Uganda and Ethiopia and flew back to London on Wednesday after being urgently summoned by May.
Priti Patel met May for just six minutes at No 10 Downing Street. In her resignation letter, Priti Patel said her actions “fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state”.
Isn’t it part of her job to meet foreign diplomats?
It is part of her job profile, but she failed to disclose these meetings.
Priti Patel, while on holiday in August, met several Israeli politicians and businessmen without informing the Department for International Development, the Foreign Office or the Prime Minister’s Office.
She has, however, denied any wrongdoing the same day the BBC reported of her meetings. In an interview with the Guardian, Priti Patel claimed that foreign secretary Boris Johnson was aware of her Israel visit, but the Foreign Office officials had briefed against her.
On Monday, she was forced to apologise and retract her claims after a meeting with May. She also admitted to meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s security minister. She disclosed that she had met Israeli officials at least 12 times in the country.
Fine, she did not disclose the meetings but what is the deal all about?
After The BBC first reported of her undisclosed meetings, Priti Patel assured May that she isn’t withholding any further information about her Israeli visit. This quickly changed when reports emerged that Priti Patel asked her office to divert UK aid money to the Israeli army for relief work in the Golan Heights, a disputed territory that the UK doesn’t recognise.
More reports followed stating Priti Patel met two senior Israeli officials after her return from the country. An Israeli paper also claimed she visited a military hospital in the Golan Heights.
How does this affect Theresa May’s government?
Priti Patel became the second minister to resign in recent weeks, following the exit of Sir Michael Fallon as defence secretary. Fallon stepped down after being accused of sexual harassment, a claim he categorically denies. One of May’s closest allies Damian Green is also being investigated by the Cabinet’s office over similar allegations. There also have been calls for May to sack her foreign secretary Boris Johnson after his failed intervention in freeing a British woman jailed in Iran. May’s government, which is in the minority, has been hit by a string of controversies since she lost the House majority in June.
So what next for Priti Patel ?
The Guardian says she could help apply pressure on May from the pro-Brexit wing of the party. Her exit is being viewed as a blow for Brexiters.