Where to start with some of our peers in parliament? I’ve spoken at some length about the failures of Boris Johnson, a man obsessed with titles and desperate to disassociate the crowning glory of a moniker with actual hard work. But looking at his cabinet, the woodwork is as rotten at it’s core as it is in front. Priti Patel’s past is a worrying dive into the mind of someone fanatically obsessed with gaining, maintaining and extending power – both personal, and for those who enable her.
I’ll never forget an article that appeared in the Guardian a few years ago that I read on my phone in my old living room whilst recovering from a hangover: it was about Home Secretary Priti Patel’s votes and opinions on Human Rights. I already knew that she was quietly anti gay and unbothered about who knew it. I already knew that she was quite outrageously opposed to migration. But since then I’ve made special effort to keep abreast of any breaking stories about Patel who has always left me uneasy, simply from the indifference she displays when discussing actual human life.
But Patel’s views aren’t the only problematic aspect of her, serious as they are. Her actions spell a worrying pattern as well.
Patel was previously member of a very far right group who was a precursor to what went on to become the Brexit party- eager to push the UK to arms length from the EU to prevent scrutiny from foreign ministers, and her open hostility to all levels of the EU and it’s associated politicians has led to a number of problematic situations, including the current one related to the channel migrant crossings.
Equally, Patel was sacked (though of course, Downing Street went with the “resigned” line that they so love to use) from her position of Home Secretary under PM May in 2019 after she failed to disclose key information relating to meeting politicians from Israel.
Apparently though, Patel is also difficult to work with because she is, simply, a bully. Protected from these accusations by Johnson, the taxpayer footed the bill of a settlement paid out to a victim of Patel’s, who was essentially squeezed out of his job for standing up to her. So heinous were the accusations, and so egregious was Johnson’s slavish desire to defend (as he calls her) “The Pritster” from them, that one of the PM’s key aides stepped down. Fortunate for Mr Johnson- he used the aide stepping down as a smokescreen to cover for his own controversy a la the payment for 11 downing street renovations. But nevertheless, another stain on Johnson’s already dirtied reputation to defend Patel from proven allegations. Fortunately, karma does find a way.
After pushing the rhetoric of what is commonly known to fans of Johnson’s somnambulistic waffle as “do gooder lefty lawyers”- lawyers who defend human rights vociferously, otherwise known as the good guys, Patel kept up rhetoric she knew had led to literal violence and attacks against individuals.
Patel’s eagerness to contribute to Johnson’s air of vacuous ignorance has seen her deny that racial inequality and division exists in the UK. Nobody who isn’t a person of colour should feel free to discard the philosophies of a person of colour when it comes to racial inequality- but Patel’s experiences are a far cry from the thousands of POC who felt it was important enough to protest against racial disparity in the UK during the BLM protests, or who regularly rail against systemic inequality in England. Even the release of a report denying racism did nothing to defeat the voices raised in concert, against the flat denials of a government happy one minute to say racial inequality doesn’t exist, then to turn around and claim if it does happen it’s actually okay the next, because the benefits of “catching criminals” outweigh the hurt caused to POC disproportionately targeted on the basis of skin colour.
Patel worked closely with Munira Mirza, another well to do WOC who had previously accused working class people of colour of holding a “persecution complex”. Mirza was one of the head reports on the widely debunked “anti racism” report that was published by Downing Street- incidentally several key contributors were stunned to find their names on the piece, as they had not even been consulted or told that their research was for this purpose.
The irony is that, to many people this laundry list of failings, frauds and frightening outcomes, this is desirable. Many right wing pundits like Patel’s steadfastness in the face of controversy. The ever smirking home secretary has done what one could justifiably called a bad job- including, let’s not forget, literally removing rights from the entire population of the UK. But still her most dedicated fans will defend Patel- we wanted this, we like her fire, her spunk, her insistence that she’s doing right. Patel and her followers have created a narrative of a successful and hard working politician.
I often wonder how long, if ever, it will take for the skeletons to emerge from Patel’s closet and for justice to be served – be it the bullying, the lobbying Israeli politicians behind the back of the PM, her hard right insistence on reducing immigration to zero- and her regular use of the phrase “illegal immigration” which does not actually exist in the sense that reactionary right wingers like her believe it does.
The job of home secretary which Patel has now occupied twice, is intrinsic to encapsulating UK safety- Patel’s commitment to this has been steadfast- and always wrong. Backing Cressida Dick has, more than once, landed Patel in the crosshairs of angry people opposed to a lacklustre police force- but conversely, the police have been unafraid in voicing their contempt for Patel and her leader. Quite the achievement to irritate both critics of the police AND the police. But Patel’s support of Dick in her post has also been called into question because there are some who believe Dick knows where the tories’ bodies are buried, and if they did make moves to remove her, nothing could exculpate them from the flurry of expositions that would follow her fall.
Further from home, Patel’s duties are to ensure safety and security for the country by working with foreign policy makers- something that Patel has never really excelled at, when it hasn’t come with personal benefits to her. Patel has pushed, during her time in office, to equate the simpler matter of border security with a demonisation of the “other”, the faceless enemy that is immigrants. Unfortunately it’s not and never has been purely right wing rhetoric to be anti immigration in the UK: but the fervour Patel pushes these edicts with, and the slavering glee that a dark subset of the British publish take in repeating racism, is a worrying sign of what we could so easily become.
From spending much time speaking with friends from abroad including the delightful Dr. Maria Norris, I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who works hard to “firm up our borders” fails to see the implicit violence that comes with erecting borders (either legislative or literal). Britain, I don’t doubt, will never be a welcoming country- but with Patel removed from the helm in future, I look forward to a clearing of the storm clouds that gathered upon the appointment of a woman with what only seems to be caustic dislike of anything from outside the United Kingdom- and a passing indifference to that from within.