Powerful British minister Priti Patel has had to resign after it emerged that she had secretly held meetings with the top Israeli leaders during her unofficial trip to Israel recently.
A known friend of Israel and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, the British politician of Gujarati descent had met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior figures while on a private holiday with her family in August this year.
Faced with widespread condemnation, Patel had apologised on Monday. However, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered her to immediately return from another official trip to Africa in light of more embarrassing revelations came to light.
In her resignation letter, Patel said that her “actions fell below the high standards that are expected and openness that I have promoted and advocated.”
Prime Minister May said that her decision was “right” as “further details have come to light”.
Patel said, “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.”
Read below Patel’s resignation in full
Reacting to her resignation, May said, “Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated.”
Read May’s reaction in full below
Patel is know a known right-wing politician within the Conservative Party. She’s has voted against gay marriage in the past, campaigned against the smoking ban, and is a long-standing supporter of Israel. She has also been a known supporter of Modi and has held talks with him both before and after he became the Indian prime minister.
Many say that Patel was instrumental in reaching out to Modi during the Conservative government in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
She was widely tipped to succeed May as the future Conservative leader and potentially even the British prime minister.
Elected as an MP in 2010 the prominent Brexiteer became a Treasury minister in 2014, before becoming Employment Minister after the 2015 general election. 45-year-old Patel has held several roles in the British government, and in June 2016 was appointed Secretary of State for International Development. In other words, she was responsible for for overseas development and the UK’s programme of assistance to developing countries.
Last week, the BBC revealed that Patel had held a number of undisclosed meetings with business and political figures during a family holiday to Israel in August. She met the leader of one of Israel’s main political parties and made visits to several organisations where official government business was reportedly discussed.
This is unusual, because ministers are supposed to tell the government when they are conducting official business overseas.
After the matter came to light, an embarrassed Patel had said, “In hindsight, I can see…how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.”
Story is far from over
Contrary to the government’s claims that it was not aware of Patel’s secret meetings with top Israeli leaders, Labour’s Tom Watson has written to May reminding that her former cabinet colleague had also met the British concul general in Israel during her holiday.
Watson said that the claims passed to him that Patel met FCO officials in Jerusalem, which made it ‘impossible to sustain the claim that the FCO was not aware of Ms Patel’s presence in Israel.’
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said that “revelations about more extra-curricular meetings” meant that if Theresa May didn’t sack her the scandal would become “an ongoing sore that smacks of weakness”.
If the British Foreign Office, headed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, was indeed aware of Patel’s secret meetings with Israeli leaders, then there will be more resignations expected. There are already demands for Johnson to step down.