Daily Archive: November 8, 2017


Priti Patel forced to resign over meetings with Israeli officials – Politics live

International development secretary becomes second cabinet minister in a week to quit

10.44pm GMT

The headlines keep coming.

The Mirror has gone with “It’s Priti shambolic.”

Thursday’s MIRROR: it’s Priti shambolic #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/Wip1Ytcmdc

From thetimes : Fears government will collapse as Patel quits #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/i2aFprLOR9

Thursday’s SUN: £25m winner ladies #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/d03h5gotxa

10.30pm GMT

After a difficult day, May is currently celebrating 25 years of Paul Dacre as editor of the Daily Mail.

Robert Peston tweeted a photo earlier.

After her hideous day, the prime minister arrives tonight for a dinner with friends – a banquet at Stationers’ Hall in the City to celebrate Paul Dacre’s 25 years as Daily Mail editor. More on News at 10 on ITV at 10 @NewsAtTen pic.twitter.com/hY6WOdsrkS

10.24pm GMT

The headlines are grim reading for Theresa May.

The Telegraph has gone with “Another day, another crisis.”

Thursday’s DAILY TELEGRAPH: Another day, another crisis #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/y0q3eXHL9j

10.10pm GMT

Rory Stewart has a rival in the battle to replace Priti Patel as international development secretary. And he says he is “touched” by the support.

Thank you and others so much for kind remarks. Not got everything right in my already fascinating role with FCO/DFID but genuinely touched by messages tonight.

As a Brexiteer I don’t care about another Leaver getting Priti’s job. A (wise, taxpayer-friendly) believer in the aid budget is what counts. My pick would be @AlistairBurtUK

9.37pm GMT

More reaction from Labour.

Kate Osamor, shadow international development secretary, has also called on the FCO and Number 10 to clarify what they knew and when they knew it.

Priti Patel appears to have breached the Ministerial Code, gone behind the Government’s back, and misled the British public.

After initially denying the allegations, then repeatedly changing her story and failing to disclose all of her meetings, it is right that she has now resigned. But we still need to know what was discussed in these meetings and what No 10 and the Foreign Office knew and when.

9.30pm GMT

The first Priti Patel front page pun is up. The first of many, no doubt.

“Fallon his sword” was the highlight from the Sun last week.

Tomorrow’s front page:
Rail drivers’ 28% pay rise to end strike#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers #skypapers #southernrail pic.twitter.com/LJzKl9mVec

9.21pm GMT

“Fools to the left of me, jokers to the right…” according to former Liberal Democrat leader.

Tories in crisis, but this isn’t 92-97. Back then they had Major, Clarke & Heseltine – grown ups. We also had an official opposition that looked like they could govern… What a spectacular mess.

9.07pm GMT

This time last week, we were reacting to Michael Fallon’s resignation as defence secretary after admitting his behaviour towards women in the past had “fallen short.”

November 15th, 7pm – who should be worried? Boris? Green?

Related: Michael Fallon quits as defence secretary, saying his behaviour has ‘fallen short’

Last 24 hours have been a godsend for Boris Johnson but attention will now return to him. Sign of how far opinion has shifted that a very senior Brexiteer and previous ally of his told me yesterday: “He’s a complete shambles.”

Now that Priti Patel has gone, can we return to Boris Johnson’s catastrophic error that was not about a breach of the ministerial code but a woman’s actual life? https://t.co/s8gm6griGD

8.45pm GMT

The battle to replace Priti Patel as international development secretary has officially started.

Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for Penrith and The Border, tweeted from eastern DR Congo just minutes after Patel’s resignation became official. He is currently a minister of state at DfID, and wanted to highlight the great work they are doing in the Kivu region.

Learning how @DFID_UK work on land rights can build peace in Congo with @UNHABITAT @UKinDRC pic.twitter.com/yStx7LOuXS

More from E Congo with @DfiD – seeing the wonderful work with communities and conservation in Virunga National Park @UKinDRC pic.twitter.com/dPkxdiVPfG

8.30pm GMT

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is currently in Washington DC, has reacted to Priti Patel’s departure.

The BBC are reporting Johnson said:

Priti Patel has been a very good colleague and friend for a long time and a first class secretary of state.

It’s been a real pleasure working with her and I’m sure she has a great future ahead of her.

8.25pm GMT

The drama might be over for this evening.

Faisal Islam, political editor at Sky News, says a shuffle of Theresa May’s cabinet is not expected tonight.

Not expecting a shuffle/reshuffle tonight

8.17pm GMT

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has welcomed Patel’s resignation, but he is not satisfied with Number 10’s account of events.

Watson has published a letter asking the PM to clarify what she knew and when she knew it.

I’m told Priti Patel *did* meet FCO officials during her trip to Israel. I’m writing to Theresa May to get clarity. pic.twitter.com/gSrlAcIpgh

7.57pm GMT

Not everyone is keen to give their reaction.

Lord Polak, the driving force behind the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and a key player in organising Priti Patel’s off-radar meetings with Israeli politicians and organisations, ran into a hotel’s massage room to avoid the press.

Moment Lord Polak runs into hotel’s massage room to avoid @Channel4News questions about Israeli meetings he helped set up for #PritiPatel. pic.twitter.com/kFdzJ1HwP0

7.49pm GMT

More politicians are taking to social media to react to Patel’s departure.

None of it makes good reading for the PM.

When you can’t even sack a minister who lied to you, you’ve got to ask what’s the point in being Prime Minister?

I’d like to think if I had all those hours on a plane I could have written a better resignation letter than that. #BrextremistMeltdown

Another minister resigns with an admission of poor standards and judgement. But stays on as an MP. Not good enough to be minister = not good enough to be MP

7.40pm GMT

My colleague Jessica Elgot has handed over the blog to me for the evening.

I will continue to follow reaction to Patel’s resignation.

7.33pm GMT

Politicians are already reacting to Patel’s departure.

In a statement, Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson said she had been “rightly been forced to step down for her cover up of meetings with foreign officials and the inappropriate requests for aid to be sent to the Israeli military in the Golan Heights.”

This was an appalling error of judgement and is nothing short of a major failure by the British government.

Number 10 must answer questions about their complicity in this scandal. Someone has been deceived, either the British people or the Prime Minister’s office. Whichever it is someone must be held to account.

Amazed the PM waited for disgraced Priti Patel to resign after her secret meetings with Israelis – if she wasn’t so weak and wobbly she’d have sacked her earlier in the week.

Resignation by @patel4witham is very sad. She’s a good woman and a leading Brexiteer in the Cabinet.

7.21pm GMT

Downing Street has released the resignation letter Priti Patel sent to Theresa May, and the prime minister’s reply.

The reply from the prime minister makes it very clear that it is the new details that have emerged over the past day which has meant Patel was forced to resign.

7.14pm GMT

Priti Patel has resigned as International Development secretary.

The prime minister met her for a short meeting at Downing Street, shortly after Patel touched down from Nairobi from where she had been summoned earlier this morning.

7.06pm GMT

Patel has left Number 10 through the back door, journalists in Downing Street are reporting.

The meeting with the prime minister has lasted around half an hour. We’re still waiting to know the outcome, but it won’t be long now.

Patel has left Downing st

6.49pm GMT

While we wait to hear the outcome of this meeting between May and Patel, former cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles has been suggesting to the Daily Mail’s deputy political editor John Stevens that Patel would not have been in such trouble had she met leaders of a different country.

Sir @EricPickles on Priti Patel: “I cannot imagine there would be this kind of fuss if she had met various people of influence in Belgium, if that is not a contradiction in terms”

There would be if Patel had offered, say, to send aid into a place illegally occupied by Belgium, not recognised by her own Government, and the centre of a bloody battleground for the last half-century. https://t.co/jPCxNbtRCF

6.42pm GMT

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg reports that a source close to Patel is saying she is preparing to resign rather than be sacked by May.

If Patel does resign, we would expect a formal exchange of letters between the prime minister and Patel to be released by Number 10 once the meeting is concluded.

Someone close to Patel tells me she’ll resign rather than be sacked

Whether May allows Patel to resign or fires her is a different matter…but Patel wants to leave with dignity

6.32pm GMT

The BBC’s Ben Wright reports that May has now arrived in Downing Street as well, through the back gates. The prime minister has made Patel wait… but not for too long it seems.

The PM has just arrived back at Downing St. Now they talk #PritiPatel

6.25pm GMT

Priti Patel has arrived at Number 10 in the last few minutes, with Sky News showing her walking from her car into the side entrance to the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street.

May is reported to have left the building a short while earlier for a routine engagement but she will return for a meeting with Patel shortly.

6.22pm GMT

Here’s the video of Boris Johnson being confronted in the US by Channel 4 News over whether he will meet the family of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“I am very happy to meet the family of Mr Ratcliffe.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says he is willing to meet the family of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran, after he was criticised for his comment to MPs about the imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. pic.twitter.com/AouFWgpK9S

5.51pm GMT

The events of 2010 concerning myself and a former member of staff have been reported outside the context and circumstances in which they occurred.

At the time we were friends, and I want to be clear that I did not force or pressure her into doing anything.

5.32pm GMT

There have not been many Tory MPs taking to the airwaves today defending Priti Patel. But James Duddridge has just been on the BBC praising her performance as international development secretary. He said he hoped Theresa May decides not to sack her, and settles for a reprimand instead.

.@JamesDuddridge tells BBC Essex he hopes Priti Patel will only be subject to a second reprimand from the PM over Israel meetings and that “it’s not a sackable offence” pic.twitter.com/gOQmfjPIui

5.26pm GMT

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has been speaking to reporters in America. He confirmed that he would try to meet Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family before he visited Iran in the next few weeks. He was then challenged to admit that what he said last week about Zaghari-Ratcliffe teaching journalism when she was in Iran wasn’t just taken out of context (as he claimed in the Commons on Tuesday), it was wrong. Johnson replied:

I think you’ll find I went into that in great detail in the HOC yesterday and clarified the matter I think perfectly.

You will find if you study what I said in the HOC yesterday, I refer to my comments in the HOC yesterday that it’s all there. Thank you very much.

5.16pm GMT

The Press Association’s David Hughes has filed a guide to possible replacements for Priti Patel. Here it is in full.

Sir Alan Duncan – Currently Boris Johnson’s deputy in the Foreign Office, Sir Alan was at Oxford University at the same time as May and preceded her husband Philip as president of the Oxford Union. He has previously been a minister in the department for international development (DfID). As a remain supporter, his appointment could upset Brexiteers.

Penny Mordaunt – The work and pensions minister had been viewed as a contender for the Defence Secretary role and would give May the opportunity of replacing Patel with another female Brexit-backer, maintaining the sensitive political balance in cabinet and the current split in terms of male and female ministers. The Portsmouth North MP wore her swimsuit to appear on ITV diving competition Splash in 2014 to raise money for charity.

5.06pm GMT

In his Jewish Chronicle article Stephen Pollard writes:

On 22 August – the same day as Ms Patel spoke to Mr Netanyahu – Middle East minister Alistair Burt and David Quarrey, the British ambassador to Israel, met Michael Oren, deputy minister at the Israeli prime minister’s Office. According to the notes of the meeting, Mr Oren referred to Ms Patel having had a successful meeting with Mr Netanyahu earlier.

5.00pm GMT

Priti Patel’s lengthy “back for the sack” air journey has brought much joy to social media. My colleague Martin Belam has a good round up.

Related: ‘RIP her mentions': Priti Patel flies back into perfect social media storm

4.13pm GMT

The Spectator’s James Forsyth is floating the idea that Nicky Morgan could be brought back to the cabinet to replace Priti Patel. Morgan was sacked as education secretary by May last year, and then she infuriated May’s aides by giving an interview criticising May for wearing expensive trousers for a photoshoot. She is not hardly a May loyalist. But she is well qualified to do the job, and, as Forsyth argues, having her in the cabinet would stop her voting against the EU withdrawal bill. She is one of the nine Tories who have been particularly prominent in signing rebel amendments to the bill.

Could Theresa May bury the hatchet with Nicky Morgan and get her back around the Cabinet table? Doing so would buy the PM two extra votes for a clean EU withdrawal bill, says @JGForsythhttps://t.co/anjsRsSS9S

4.01pm GMT

Priti Patel is not heading straight for Number 10, according to LBC’s Theo Usherwood.

Downing Street sources say Priti Patel is not heading straight to Downing Street. She is due to meet the PM later this evening for face-to-face talks.

3.42pm GMT

This is from the Independent’s Joe Watts.

Staff in DfiD have been told to expect a new boss https://t.co/KRmbrksQJ4

3.37pm GMT

This is from the BBC’s Julia Macfarlane.

Like a scene from Rat Race, the BBC helicopter is now flying after Priti Patel’s car as it goes from Heathrow to Downing Street pic.twitter.com/ErG7bo0FAi

3.36pm GMT

BBC News has just shown footage of Priti Patel getting into a ministerial car at Heathrow. It is not very clear, but she is the figure sitting in the back in the car on the right, with her hand reaching out to close the door.

3.28pm GMT

This is from HuffPost’s Paul Waugh.

Priti Patel is open for WhatsApp messages. My phone just flashed that she’s ‘online’. pic.twitter.com/eKkl8olUJk

3.23pm GMT

BBC News has just broadcast some aerial footage of the plane from Kenya that has landed at Heathrow that we assume is carrying Priti Patel. It is at the landing dock now, and there seem to be three black ministerial-style limos waiting alongside, which could well be there to pick up the international development secretary.

3.18pm GMT

According to the Times’s Henry Zeffman, Priti Patel’s phone is back on.

Can confirm Priti Patel is now ONLINE on Whatsapp

3.13pm GMT

According to “an ally” of Priti Patel’s quoted in a Telegraph story (paywall), the international development is not going to go down without a fight. The ally is quoted as saying:

[Patel is being made a scapegoat, it is not credible that the Foreign Office knew about these meetings but Downing Street did not. She left for Uganda after apologising and being told that she was safe – now they are bowing to pressure.

She is going to be pretty angry if she is sacked and she could do some pretty hard damage to Downing Street. No 10 is being naive, the prime minister will create an even bigger problem for herself if she sacks Priti.

3.08pm GMT

I d just like to say, no one can really be sure if this is Priti Patel’s plane – paging Ianucci pic.twitter.com/GNHDDgj0mI

3.07pm GMT

Priti Patel’s plane (or at least the plane we all think she’s on) has landed. This is from LBC’s Theo Usherwood.

Priti Patel has landed back in London. pic.twitter.com/cBZUsk1fu8

3.05pm GMT

With Priti Patel’s future up in the air – figuratively and metaphorically – today could be a good time to bury bad news. But surely it’s a coincidence that the Student Loans Company has today announced that it was sacking its chief executive, Steve Lamey, after an investigation lasting nearly four months:
“Following investigations into allegations about aspects of his management and leadership, the SLC has decided to terminate Steve Lamey’s contract as chief executive officer of the Student Loans Company,” the company said in a statement.

The SLC and its shareholders expect the highest standards of management and leadership and these were not upheld by Mr Lamey during his time in this role.

Related: Student Loans Company sacks chief executive Steve Lamey

2.59pm GMT

With the government increasingly resembling a sinking ship, Damian Green, the first secretary of state and de facto deputy prime minister, has staged an appropriate photo opportunity.

The brave men and women of the Moray Inshore Rescue Boat showing Douglas Ross and me the equipment. Delighted to mark their grant from the UK Transport Department for new engines. pic.twitter.com/mFrXzoKsaw

2.55pm GMT

Madame Tussauds have been unveiling their new waxwork Theresa May today.

2.45pm GMT

The BBC reports: “Priti Patel’s plane has begun its descent into Heathrow” pic.twitter.com/hcJQTJrj8E

2.21pm GMT

Downing Street says the Jewish Chronicle is wrong when it says Number 10 told Priti Patel not to include a meeting that she had with the head of the Israeli foreign Office, Yuval Rotem, in September in a list of meetings with Israeli ministers and officials she published on Monday. (See 12.33am.)

But my colleague Anushka Asthana says Number 10 did know that Patel had had the meeting with Rotem in New York in September. Downing Street is just contesting the idea that it was responsible for this being left off the list published on Monday.

On Jewish Chronicle claims, Downing st admit that Priti Patel told them about the NY meeting, but say they didn’t tell her not to publish that.

Suggestion is that it was PP’s list, and she decided to make it about meetings during Israel holiday.

2.13pm GMT

Priti about to cross into Belgium, which already has its fair share of exiled rebel leaders pic.twitter.com/QhxE5vJZKj

1.47pm GMT

My colleague Jonathan Freedland has written a column about Priti Patel’s downfall. He reckons the biggest beneficiary is Boris Johnson.

Here’s an excerpt.

The Financial Times reckons Johnson might “be the least distinguished figure to occupy the Foreign Office” since 1945. That verdict is damning, but deserved. Patel’s behaviour was egregious, but it’s Johnson’s that has exacted the greater human cost – even if, thanks to Patel, it has got less attention. The very least we should expect is that he be fired. That he is likely to survive only confirms the paralysis of a prime minister heading a government decaying by the day.

Related: The biggest winner from Priti Patel’s downfall is Boris Johnson | Jonathan Freedland

1.38pm GMT

With Number 10 and the Jewish Chronicle at loggerheads over various questions of the classic “who know what, when?” variety (see 12.33am and 1.23pm), opposition parties are saying Theresa May now needs to make a full statement to clear everything up.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, said in a statement:

If [the Jewish Chronicle allegations] are correct this goes straight to the prime minister’s door and calls into question the integrity of the prime minister herself, who must now make clear what she knew, what Downing Street knew and when, and she must do so today.

This is a humiliating set of circumstances – not just for Priti Patel but Theresa May and her entire government.

If true, today’s revelations show that the lies in government go right to the top. The prime minister should make a public statement detailing exactly what was known and when. And if Number 10 knew about Priti Patel’s additional meetings in Israel and lied about it, the prime minister should clearly consider her position.

1.23pm GMT

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, has just told Sky News that he stands by his story about Theresa May knowing more about Priti Patel’s Israel meetings than Number 10 says, despite the strong denial from Downing Street. (See 12.33pm.) He said his two sources were “very reliable” and that they had never tried to spin him in the past. He went on:

Number 10 are going to deny it, aren’t the? As Mandy Rice-Davies put it, they would say that, wouldn’t they? All I know is what I’ve been told by two extremely senior, reliable sources.

1.13pm GMT

Theresa May is often compared to Gordon Brown (in a way that is not intended to reflect well on either of them), but Damian McBride, Brown’s communications chief, reckons the Brown operation was better at crisis management. He has tweeted this:

A topical lesson from my book, Power Trip – aka The Gordon Brown Political Survival Manual. pic.twitter.com/GZH3IVREsF

12.58pm GMT

According to Guido Fawkes, 22,000 people have been tracking Priti Patel’s flight on Flight Radar. She is currently over Bosnia.

22,000 people currently tracking Priti Patel’s plane on Flight Radar… https://t.co/utVHB4D8IO pic.twitter.com/yhHxgODUG7

12.53pm GMT

Rupert Harrison, who used to be George Osborne’s chief of staff, is so taken with the Priti Patel story that he’s turned to poetry.

There once was a lady called Priti
Who met Bibi in the Holy City
She didn’t tell her boss
Who got very cross
But neither of them got much pity

12.40pm GMT

Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, has expanded on her call for Priti Patel to be sacked. She told the Guardian:

Priti Patel’s actions have badly damaged the world-class work that the department for international development does to help the world’s poorest, and they are eroding trust in Britain and beyond in the principles that drive the department.

Under Priti Patel’s tenure, aid has been increasingly repurposed for opaque diplomacy or security objectives, and the spirit of the UK’s pledge to spend 0.7% of national income regularly undermined through the back door whenever possible.

12.33pm GMT

Downing Street is rejecting the claims in Stephen Pollard’s Jewish Chronicle article that have generated huge interest this morning. (See 10.39am and 11am.) A Number 10 spokesman said:

There are two allegations in the Jewish Chronicle. Both are categorically untrue.

It is not the case that anyone from Number 10 asked anyone from DfID to remove a meeting from the list that was published this week.

12.17pm GMT

Kate Osamor, Priti Patel’s Labour shadow, says the international development secretary should be sacked.

New revelations mean May must sack Patel when she lands. Damage being done to Britain’s reputation.

12.05pm GMT

Former Tory minister Anna Soubry and former shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh are both speculating that Priti Patel has already been sacked.

Speaking on BBC Five Live Creagh said:

I think she already has been (sacked) and I think what we are seeing is the prime minister perhaps giving her the dignity of landing on British soil and being able to offer her resignation. But there is no other reason for her cut short her trip in this way. All my political instincts tell me that she is toast.

I’m with Mary. I think Mary’s instincts are usually good and on this one I’m sure she is right.

[May has] just got to grip it and assert her authority, have a top to bottom reshuffle. Bring in some of these brilliant new 2015ers. Bring back some people from the back benches, promote women. Put some old hands who have really proved to be safe pairs of hands, like Alistair Burt, and get on with the job. People are fed up with all of this, they want a government that delivers competence.

11.40am GMT

Turning from a moment from one beleaguered cabinet minister to another, the Conservative MP Anna Soubry has told Radio 5 Live that Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, should be sacked.

Conservative MP @Anna_Soubry tells @EmmaBarnett she would have sacked @BorisJohnson over a month ago #5liveDaily pic.twitter.com/mcPWj9U11D

11.37am GMT

Here are the Ladbrokes odds on who might replace Priti Patel.

Ladbrokes: Penny Mordaunt is now favourite to replace Priti Patel as DFID Secretary pic.twitter.com/vE7uYixxpB

11.32am GMT

ITV’s Robert Peston thinks the Jewish Chronicle claims about Downing Street knowing more about Priti Patel’s Israel freelancing than it has admitted (see 10.39am and 11am) are “sensational”.

Sensational implications of JC story. 1) PM knew about and endorsed Patel freelancing with Israel Gov, despite Downing St denials; 2) & Patel has therefore tainted PM by not following government protocol. This is worse for Patel than PM https://t.co/PamkefhWBS

11.22am GMT

This is from my colleague Rafael Behr.

Aside: FCO has been trying to persuade EU capitals that May is in this for long haul, dispelling idea – quite widespread on continent – that she might go at any minute (and thereby change Brexit calculus). This week hardly promoting that stability message.

11.17am GMT

In the blog we have been referring to Yuval Rotem, whom Priti Patel met in New York in September, simply as “an Israeli foreign ministry official”. A reader has been in touch to point out that this rather understates his importance. He is director general at the ministry, the equivalent of permanent secretary, which means he’s the official in charge.

11.12am GMT

The Israeli defence forces field hospital that Priti Patel reportedly visited in the summer (see 9.58am) is being run under the auspices of an Israeli military medical aid effort that has assisted both wounded civilians as well as wounded rebel Syrian fighters, some of whom have been accused of being members of jihadi groups fighting the Assad regime.

Complicating Patel’s depiction of her visit to Israel in the summer as a private one was a reply given to a Guardian inquiry regarding her visit to the Golan Heights by an Israeli military spokesman, who strongly suggested Patel’s trip had been organised by the country’s ministry of foreign affairs.

She visited Israel. Please refer to the MFA [ministry of foreign affairs] for details, since they organised the visit.

11.01am GMT

The new defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, refused to directly answer questions about Patel’s future when he spoke to reporters on his way into a Nato summit in Brussels.

Asked if Patel should be sacked he said:

We are very much focused on talking about military matters here and that is what I’m going to be doing all day.

The prime minister makes her own decision on who is serving in her cabinet, and they are only the prime minister’s decisions. She makes her own decisions and she always does make her own decisions.

11.00am GMT

Sir Craig Oliver, head of communications at Number 10 for David Cameron, thinks the Jewish Chronicle claims (see 10.39am), are very significant.

If it’s true someone in No10 asked Priti Patel to cover up meetings (and @JewishChron says 2 sources) this story has a long way to run. https://t.co/yrWG1g3Bty

No 10 knew on Aug 24 that Patel had met Bibi. They knew about the Yuval Rotem meeting. Then tried to get Patel to cover it up, again. Utter chaos at the heart of government. May’s future also surely now in question…

If this is true – and @stephenpollard is very good – then Number 10 have been misleading journalists all week about what Theresa May knew and when. https://t.co/kfJDwmgJPM

Just gone back over tape. PM’s spokesman was asked on Monday: “So the SoS met the Israeli PM three months ago and no-one had any idea until Friday?” He told us: “That’s correct.” https://t.co/7J2eysAave

10.39am GMT

Stephen Pollard, the Jewish Chronicle editor, says that Priti Patel did tell Number 10 about her meeting with Yuval Rotem, the Israeli foreign ministry official, in New York in September. But the meeting was not included in the list of her meetings with Israeli ministers and officials published on Monday “as it would embarrass the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”, Pollard writes.

10.35am GMT

DfID, the department for international development, aren’t commenting yet on the Haaretz story about Priti Patel visiting the Golan Heights while she was in Israel in the summer. (See 9.58am.) They will be saying something later, I’m told.

10.30am GMT

Here is Sir Christopher Meyer, a former ambassador to Washington, on Priti Patel.

What did she think she was doing? Incomprehensibly daft.

9.58am GMT

The Israeli news organisation Haaretz reports today that when Priti Patel was in Israel, she visited an Israeli military field hospital in the Golan Heights. This was not included in the information she disclosed about her trip on Monday.

Haaretz says in its story:

Britain’s international development secretary Priti Patel is at the center of a political scandal that has emerged in recent days with information about a series of meetings she had with senior Israeli officials, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without notifying the British embassy in advance. The criticism is set to increase Wednesday as Haaretz found that Patel visited an Israeli military field hospital set up by in the Golan Heights to treat Syrian refugees and victims of the civil war …

Like the rest of the international community, the British government does not recognize Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the six-day war in 1967.

9.44am GMT

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP and, like Priti Patel, a prominent Vote Leave supporter, told the Today programme this morning that Patel had made “a genuine mistake”. He said:

I’m quite certain that Priti made a genuine, genuine mistake.

We need to recognise that a lot of ministers are not experienced in high office when they take on these roles and they need a lot of support. I see this as an accident, I don’t see this is as malign or malicious, though a very serious breach of the protocols, no doubt about that.

9.32am GMT

Of all the meetings that Priti Patel held with Israeli ministers and officials, the meetings with Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security and strategic affairs minister, are the most unusual and potentially damaging. She met him on her visit to Israel in August, and again in September in London. (See 7.27am.)

Erdan, an ambitious and abrasive member of Netanyahu’s own right wing Likud party, is better known for working against the kind of human rights advocates familiar to DfID staffers from their work.

9.20am GMT

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, today landed in Washington for two days of talks with senior Congressmen designed to shore up American political support for the Iran nuclear deal saying the deal had made the world a safer place.

His chief message to key figures such as Paul Ryan, the republican House leader, will be US and the UK together must together condemn, and possibly act against the wider destabilising behaviour of Iran across the Middle East, but that does not require abandoning the Iran nuclear deal.

Supporting the nuclear deal does not mean we should not call out and take action against disruptive Iranian behaviour elsewhere, including its ballistic missile programme and the unjustified detention of British dual-nationals. However, it is vital that we do not conflate the issues on which we should rightly condemn Iran and a deal which is neutralising the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

It took thirteen years of tireless diplomacy between the UK, US, our European partners and Iran to make the world a safer place. Now is not the moment to put that at risk but rather it is time for the US and UK to draw on the strength of our relationship and to focus on addressing Iran’s destabilising activity in the region.

9.18am GMT

Priti Patel might be in a marginally stronger position if Tory MPs were coming out to defend her. But generally they are not. When Alistair Burt, her deputy, was in the Commons answering an urgent question about her conduct yesterday, none of the Conservative backbenchers who stood up to ask a question gave her their full backing.

But on Newsnight last night on Tory did speak up for her. Nadhim Zahawi, a member of the foreign affairs committee and, like Patel, an enthusiastic Brexiter, said the campaign against her was all a plot go up by remoaners. He told the programme:

Israel is one of our closest partners. This is not an enemy state that she somehow was having clandestine meetings with. The Foreign Office knew during the trip that she was having these meetings. Yes, the ambassador should have been there. She’s already admitted the mistake of not following procedure and apologised for it.

I somehow feel that some of this stuff is being drummed up because both Priti and the foreign secretary are big beasts in the Brexit campaign and some Labour remoaners and others think, if we take out some of these beasts and derail the government, then maybe we can actually do a U-turn on Brexit.

9.04am GMT

Speculation about who might replace Priti Patel as international development secretary has already started. Sky’s Adam Boulton has two very credible candidates.

Which is more likely Sir Alan Duncan or Alistair Birt as next Dev Sec or another @UKGenElect by Christmas?

9.02am GMT

And here is the Labour MP Chris Byrant, a former Foreign Office minister, on the Priti Patel affair.

This is no longer about Pritti Patel. It’s about the PM’s weakness and indecision. A paralysed Premiere in the paralysed parliament.

The trouble is Patel lied to the country and to the PM and has forced others to present half-truths to parliament on her behalf.

If Patel isn’t sacked today she’ll have to face Commons next Monday to explain her lies. And her career won’t survive that.

8.59am GMT

Here is Douglas Carswell, the former Ukip MP, on the Priti Patel affair.

This whole business of Priti Patel’s meetings shows DfID needs to be merged back into the FCO. DfID sldn’t be doing foreign policy solo

8.54am GMT

In a post on his Facebook page, ITV’s political editor Robert Peston says Priti Patel is “set to be sacked” and he has fresh information about her September meeting with Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security meeting, which helps to explain why. Peston says:

The meeting which looks to have done for her was with Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan on September 7.

What is most shocking about this meeting is that it had been declined on her behalf by her department officials. But unbeknownst to them, it was then fixed up by her constituency office.

8.49am GMT

Alex Wickham, who works for the Guido Fawkes website, has posted a link to the flightradar website website showing tracking the plane that he thinks Priti Patel is on as she flies back to London.

Follow what I am 90% sure is Priti Patel’s flight back to Heathrow here… https://t.co/Yiboj4KE7S

8.37am GMT

Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow and I’m taking over from Claire.

The Press Association has just snapped this.

International development secretary Priti Patel is flying back to Britain from Africa at the request of Theresa May, Whitehall sources said.

8.31am GMT

The Telegraph’s economics correspondent Anna Isaac, who is travelling on the Uganda trip with Liam Fox and (at least in theory) Priti Patel, says the international development secretary did not board the plane this morning from Nairobi to Entebbe as planned.

UK businesses have come on this trip to try and make most of #brexit #trade ops. What kind of impression does this give? #missingminister

8.22am GMT

It’s not clear whether Theresa May has spoken to Patel since the further revelations last night of two more undisclosed meetings – after the international development secretary had been hauled in front of the prime minister to account for her earlier omissions.

It’s also still not yet clear precisely where Patel is. She was due to be in Uganda with international trade secretary Liam Fox. But now it seems likely that she did not make it to Entebbe as planned, and might even be on her way back to London already.

8.18am GMT

Labour peer Charles Falconer has told the Today programme that Patel must “definitely” be sacked – and that the fact Israel is an ally makes no difference:

She should not be colluding with a foreign government … It means she’s not part of a collective government trying to do the best for Britain … It’s appalling.

It’s a matter for the prime minister.

8.05am GMT

Sky News is now reporting – which I can’t yet confirm – that Patel is on her way back to London.

Nairobi to London is an eight-and-a-half-hour flight time. That’s quite a long spell to have your phone on airplane mode …

7.50am GMT

Did Priti Patel even make it to Uganda? The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope reports not, saying she stayed overnight in Nairobi, Kenya – and could be heading back to London already.

This hasn’t been confirmed.

BREAKING Priti Patel stayed in Nairobi with her permanent secretary this morning. Not clear if she is on the plane back to London. Her staff have flown on to Entebbe with Liam Fox. Developing. https://t.co/R5eBciewAU

7.44am GMT

While Priti Patel currently occupies the “most likely to leave the cabinet today” position, Boris Johnson’s behaviour also remains under the spotlight.

The foreign secretary yesterday continued to insist that his words had been misunderstood when he told the foreign affairs select committee last week that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – a British-Iranian woman serving a five-year jail sentence in Iran – was “simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it”.

Related: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe requests meeting with Boris Johnson

7.27am GMT

As my colleague Jessica Elgot points out, one of Patel’s newly disclosed unsanctioned meetings – on 7 September, with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli public security minister – was tweeted out by Erdan himself on that date:

בין הפגישות היום פגשתי בפרלמנט שליד התמזה את השרה לפיתוח בינ״ל פריטי פאטל. מנהיגה אמיצה וכנה שתומכת בישראל מכל הלב. דנו בשת״פ בין משרדינו pic.twitter.com/O9yw1C5UMo

7.21am GMT

The admission by the Department for International Development (DfID) on Tuesday night about the September meetings further undermined Patel’s earlier insistence that she had come clean about all her unofficial business with Israeli officials:

On 7 September, she met Gilad Erdan, the minister for public security, and was photographed with him on the House of Commons terrace.

On 18 September, while in New York, Patel met Yuval Rotem, an official from the Israeli foreign ministry.

Related: Priti Patel clinging on after details of more Israel meetings emerge

7.16am GMT

The BBC’s Norman Smith reports that Patel’s scheduled events for this morning – she’s currently on a trip to Uganda with international trade secretary Liam Fox – have been cancelled:

Understood that two events Priti Patel was due to be attending in Uganda this morning have been cancelled

7.12am GMT

An early start for the politics live blog today, which for under-pressure Priti Patel – according to some reports – could be her last as a member of this cabinet.

Patel, the international development secretary, is in Uganda with international trade secretary Liam Fox. But attention is instead on Israel, where Patel held 12 undisclosed meetings with senior officials – including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – during an unusually busy family holiday to the country in Israel.

So I am hearing that Priti Patel is likely to be sacked within hours. That would be two cabinet ministers gone in a week.

As I understand it – the 2 haven’t talked yet, No 10 are not sacking her tonight, but it’s very likely in the morning (only 90mins of today to go)

But don’t forget govt so fragile, if there is a way to keep Patel that doesn’t look insane, Number 10 might go for it

Continue reading…


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Priti Patel forced to resign over unofficial meetings with Israelis

Theresa May loses second cabinet minister in a week as pro-Brexit international development secretary departs

• Priti Patel’s resignation letter and Theresa May’s response – in full

Theresa May’s government was rocked on Wednesday by a second cabinet resignation in a week after Priti Patel was forced to step down as international development secretary.

The minister quit after being summoned back from a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia by Downing Street after it emerged she failed to be candid with May about 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, businesspeople and a senior lobbyist.

13 August

Related: Priti Patel’s resignation letter and Theresa May’s response – in full

Continue reading…


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