Home Secretary Priti Patel ‘deeply concerned’ by ‘false MI5 claims’

Priti Patel and Boris Johnson Image copyright Reuters Image caption Priti Patel has been home secretary since Boris Johnson became prime minister

Media reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel is distrusted by intelligence chiefs and bullied her staff have been dismissed as “false” by the government.

Officials have denied that MI5 held back information from Ms Patel, following allegations that officials lacked confidence in her abilities.

She has also been accused of trying to force out Sir Philip Rutnam, the most senior civil servant in her department.

The pair were both said to be “deeply concerned” by the “false allegations”.

Downing Street has backed Ms Patel, with the prime minister’s official spokesman telling reporters Boris Johnson had “full confidence” in the home secretary.

And the UK’s top civil servant hit out at “unattributed briefings” and leaks in the media, saying they “besmirched the country’s hard-won reputation for good governance”.

In an email to Whitehall staff, Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said “candour, confidentiality and courtesy” between ministers, civil servants and special advisers were “crucial to the trust and confidence on which good government depends”.

A spokesman for Ms Patel and Sir Philip said they were focused on delivering their department’s “hugely important agenda” such as an overhaul of the immigration system, putting more police officers on the streets and combating terrorism.

The statement comes after a source told the BBC there had been no animosity or “blazing rows” between Ms Patel and Sir Philip – who has been the Home Office’s permanent secretary since April 2017 – but they were simply “not the right fit”.

The BBC’s assistant political editor, Norman Smith, said the intervention from a security service source – saying the claims they withheld information from the home secretary were “simply untrue” – was “highly unusual”.

The Home Office said “no formal complaints” had been made about Ms Patel, who has been home secretary since Boris Johnson became prime minister.

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Media captionTheresa Villiers ‘sick of spiteful briefings against women’.

Security Minister James Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast there had been “a lot of false stories” circulating about Ms Patel, and security briefings had been continuing as normal. He added: “I simply do not recognise the commentary and the false accusations and assertions that in so many ways have been swirling around.”

Former Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers also said she was “sick of spiteful briefings against women in high public office”, calling Ms Patel a “highly effective home secretary”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she believed there was an element of misogyny to the allegations,

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