Prime Minister under pressure to come clean about ‘unauthorised’ ministerial meetings
THE political storm over former Cabinet minister Priti Patel’s secret meetings with senior Israeli officials threatened to engulf Downing Street yesterday amid accusations of a government cover-up.
Prime Minister Theresa May has serious questions to answer over exactly how much she knew about Ms Patel’s meetings, argued Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard.
He alleged that the pair had discussed Ms Patel’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and her plans to funnel aid to the Israeli army, with Ms May agreeing that it was “a sensible idea.”
Ms Patel resigned as international development secretary on Wednesday evening after being recalled from an official trip to Uganda.
She was replaced by former disability minister Penny Mordaunt.
However, the Jewish Chronicle is standing by claims that Downing Street ordered a cover-up over Ms Patel’s meetings to avoid embarrassing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Mr Pollard said Ms Patel “had clearly messed up and had to go,” but the real story was about No 10.
He added: “Far from being unaware, No 10 knew in full about her meeting with Mr Netanyahu, because Ms Patel had discussed it with the Prime Minister in September, prior to the UN general assembly.
“I then discovered this morning that No 10 had been told by Ms Patel about her meeting with Israeli Foreign Office official Yuval Rotem in New York and had specifically asked her not to include it.
“It is a truism that with most scandals the real fallout comes from the cover-up.”
The newspaper claimed that
while Ms Patel’s meeting with Mr Netanyahu had not been authorised in advance by the FCO, the government was made aware of it within hours.
Mr Pollard suggested that the revelations raised serious question for the government and Prime Minister “over who knew what and when.”
Ms Mordaunt, a naval reservist, had been tipped to replace Michael Fallon as defence secretary before the post went to then chief whip Gavin Williamson.
Shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor welcomed Ms Mordaunt’s appointment.
She added: “The new Secretary of State faces an immediate challenge of restoring integrity to British international development policy after the actions of Priti Patel.”
“Unlike Priti Patel, who too often used the department to prop up her personal networks and leadership ambitions, Mordaunt must also quickly commit to the central cause of the department: to help the world’s poorest.”