Priti Patel quits as Home Secretary hours after Liz Truss elected new Tory leader

Priti Patel has quit as Home Secretary, following the election of Liz Truss as the new Conservative Party leader.

In her resignation letter to Boris Johnson, shared on social media, Ms Patel said it was her “choice” to continue her public service from the backbenches, when Ms Truss formally takes up her post as prime minister on Tuesday.

While she pledged her support for the new leader, she said it was “vital” that she continued to support the policies she had pursued to tackle illegal immigration – including the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

“It has been the honour of my life to serve as Home Secretary for the last three years,” she tweeted.

“I am proud of our work to back the police, reform our immigration system and protect our country.”

Her departure comes amid reports that Ms Truss is planning to appoint Attorney General Suella Braverman as home secretary when she begins assembling her new cabinet.

Fiercely loyal to Mr Johnson, she was one of the few cabinet ministers not to declare their support for either Ms Truss or her leadership rival, Rishi Sunak.

Her three years in office have been marked by a series of controversies – not least her attempts to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel.

Earlier this year she signed what she described as a “landmark” agreement with Rwanda to send refugees to the east African state to claim asylum there.

However the first deportation flight, which had been due to take off in June, was grounded amid a series of legal challenges and so far no deportations have taken place.

The tough-talking Home Secretary who courted controversy

Priti Patel had already courted controversy before she joined Boris Johnson’s Cabinet in 2019.

The Conservative MP for Witham since 2010 re-emerged from the backbenches when she was promoted to Home Secretary three years ago.

In 2017 she was forced to resign as international development secretary by then-prime minister Theresa May over unauthorised contacts with Israeli officials.

Known for talking tough on crime and depicted by critics as divisive, she attracted attention years earlier for her views.

In 2006 Ms Patel said she was in favour of the “ultimate punishment” for the worst crimes and, during a Question Time debate in 2011, supported the death penalty – although she has since insisted her comments were taken out of context.

Mr Johnson himself described Ms Patel as a “hardline” home secretary, even joking that, under her, the UK could become the “Saudi Arabia of penal policy”.

During the course of her tenure, Ms Patel has been accused of bullying staff; became embroiled in a war of words with France over tackling the growing numbers of migrants crossing the English Channel; was dogged by criticism from campaigners over a wave of sweeping immigration and asylum reforms amid accusations her policies were “anti-refugee”; and fell out of favour with the police amid a row over pay freezes.

But, among her supporters, the Home Secretary is praised for taking what is described as a fair but firm and no-nonsense approach on difficult subjects which prompt debate.

In April Ms Patel signed what she branded a “world-first” agreement to send migrants deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally to Rwanda – a policy considered highly controversial among opponents, as well as some Conservatives, in light of concerns over the East African nation’s track record on human rights among other factors.

The first deportation flight – due to take off in June – was grounded amid legal challenges. The legality of the policy is being called into question in a High Court battle this week.

Mr Johnson famously vowed to “stick with Prit” when bullying allegations swirled and his then adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan, quit his post when the Prime Minister overruled his conclusion that she had breached the Ministerial Code.

The fallout resulted in former Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam accepting a six-figure sum from the Government after launching legal action against her following his dramatic resignation in 2020, in which he accused her of bullying subordinates and carrying out a “vicious and orchestrated” briefing campaign against him.

That same year, while there were growing tensions between the Government and the legal profession, Ms Patel caused a storm with an “ill-advised” tweet about the deaths of 39 migrants in Essex during an ongoing people smuggling trial. This prompted a judge to direct jurors to ignore comments made by politicians on social media.

Mr Johnson stood by Ms Patel again last year over more claims of Ministerial Code breaches amid allegations she arranged a meeting between a billionaire Tory donor and British Airways.

This came as she was accused of “running scared” after reportedly cancelling an in-person appearance at a police conference as high-ranking officers set out plans to withdraw from a pay review system and take legal action over pensions.

Earlier in 2021 the Police Federation of England and Wales said it no longer had confidence in her as Home Secretary after a bitterly opposed pay freeze for officers was confirmed.

The London-born married mother – who attended a comprehensive school in Watford before studying economics at Keele University and completing postgraduate studies at the University of Essex – has also clashed with others over racism.

She hit back at a group of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Labour MPs who accused her of using her Ugandan-Indian heritage to cast doubt on black communities’ experience of racism, telling them she refused to “take lectures” on prejudice as she described being frequently racially abused.

Despite her condemnation of racism faced by England footballers, she was also criticised for describing the action of players taking the knee as “gesture politics”.

In a letter to Mr Johnson setting out her plan to resign after Liz Truss takes office as prime minister, Ms Patel said it had been the “honour of my life” to serve as Home Secretary and that she would “continue my public service to the country and the Witham constituency from the backbenches” once a successor is appointed.

Priti Patel’s letter to the Prime Minister in full

Here is Priti Patel’s letter to outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson in full, setting out her plan to resign when his successor Liz Truss appoints her replacement:

“Dear Boris

It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the country with you during your premiership.

In July 2019, when you became Prime Minister, our political system was broken. Parliament was tearing itself apart as some MPs showed contempt for democracy and desperately tried to block Brexit.

You set out a clear plan to get Brexit done, broke the deadlock in Parliament, and secured a historic Conservative victory at the 2019 General Election, winning the largest share of the vote for a political party since Margaret Thatcher.

It has been the honour of my life to serve our country as Home Secretary for the last three years and to deliver on our commitments to back and reform our police, stand up for the hard-working law-abiding majority, reform our immigration and asylum system, and fight terrorism. Your support over this period has delivered an unparalleled package of reforms and investment.

We have re-affirmed the Conservative Party’s status as the party of law and order by backing our police with a record £17 billion of investment and funding 20,000 more police officers. We have also introduced tougher punishments for offenders, more help for victims of crime, and reforms in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the Public Order Bill.

The investment we have given to counter-terrorism activities and backing the intelligence services has helped keep our streets safer and disrupted the activities of those who would otherwise do us terrible harm.

We have used our Brexit freedoms to take back control of our immigration laws with a new points-based immigration system. Our historic Immigration Act has ended free movement and taken back control of our borders. We can now attract the brightest and best from around the world to the UK rather than face the adverse effects of uncontrolled free movement.

Our New Plan for Immigration means that at long last what the British people want is reflected in immigration policy, ending abuses of the immigration and asylum system.

Over the last three years, our approach to reforming immigration laws and fixing our broken asylum system has been firm and fair. I know how frustrating the issue of Channel crossings has been. This is why we fully reviewed all aspects of Channel operations covering ‘push backs’ at sea and military interceptions in the Channel. This led to investments in new measures to prevent crossings and improved our cooperation with the French authorities.

We have been relentless in working domestically and internationally on dismantling the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs that show contempt for human life and profit from the exploitation and misery of others.

In April, I secured the world-first Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda. The partnership with Rwanda is part of a wider strategy, which includes domestic reforms to build Greek style reception centres in the UK to detain and remove migrants, and my planned legislation to reform the National Referral Mechanism and Modern Day Slavery Act, ending the legal merry go round of barriers which stop the Government from removing migrants from the UK. This package of measures will lead to lasting reforms to the UK’s asylum and removal system.

It is vital that your successor backs all aspects of these policies on illegal migration to ensure the full implementation and delivery of the New Plan for Immigration and Nationality and Borders Act. As we know, there is no single solution to this huge challenge and the Government must tackle the full spectrum of issues to halt the illegal entry of migrants to the UK.

We have also rightly been tough on foreign national offenders and despite the challenges to international travel posed by Covid-19, we have deported nearly 12,000 over the three years to March 2022.

To support this work, I have signed new international returns agreements with India, Albania, Serbia, Nigeria, and Pakistan, with work underway to negotiate more agreements and to remove more people who should not be in this country and who have abused our hospitality.

At the same time, we have strengthened our country’s proud record of providing sanctuary and refuge to those in genuine need by establishing safe routes, including for BNOs, Afghans and Ukrainians. Britain has always been a beacon for freedom and democracy, and I have been proud to work with you over the last three years to make that light shine brighter.

All this has been achieved despite the relentless efforts of our political opponents, and left-wing activists, lawyers and campaigners who have sought to block these measures, regardless of what the majority of people in the UK want. While they stand up for the criminals, terrorists, people smugglers, those with no right to be in the UK, and people who threaten public safety and would do our country harm, we have never faltered and never stopped doing what is right to protect the public.

Under your leadership, we have made our country safer, strengthened law and order, delivered our Manifesto commitments, and laid strong foundations for our successors at Number 10 and in the Home Office to build on.

I congratulate Liz Truss on being elected our new Leader, and will give her my support as our new Prime Minister. It is my choice to continue my public service to the country and the Witham constituency from the backbenches, once Liz formally assumes office and a new Home Secretary is appointed. From the backbenches, I will champion many of the policies and causes I have stood up for both inside and outside of Government.

Thank you for the great honour you have given me, not only in making me Home Secretary, but in supporting me throughout.

The Rt Hon Priti Patel

MP Secretary of State for the Home Department Member of Parliament for Witham”

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