Boris Johnson was facing allegations he tried to water down the official inquiry that found Home Secretary Priti Patel bullied staff as he was told “you shouldn’t have bullies in government” by a former top civil servant.
Sir David Normington, a former Home Office permanent secretary, said on Saturday the Prime Minister “doesn’t seem willing to stand up for high standards in public life” as he faced mounting criticism for standing by Ms Patel.
Downing Street did not deny suggestions that Mr Johnson had tried and failed to convince his standards ministerial adviser Sir Alex Allan to tone down his conclusion that her behaviour amounted to bullying as he found instances of shouting and swearing.
The adviser quit on Friday when the Prime Minister overruled his conclusion that Ms Patel breached the ministerial code and stood by his Home Secretary.
Sir David, the top civil servant at the department until 2011, criticised Mr Johnson for contradicting Sir Alex to find the Cabinet minister is not a bully.
“The Prime Minister has simply put aside the findings of a report, and of the independent adviser Sir Alex Allan, that she is a bully and you shouldn’t’ have bullies in government,” Sir David told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We have to put ourselves in the position of the bullied, no one has spoken up for them, some of them are junior staff and who will be sitting there today thinking that their voice has not been heard and you cannot rely on the Prime Minister to stand up for them.
“For the first time as far as I can remember we have a prime minister that doesn’t seem willing to stand up for high standards in public life.”
Meanwhile, The Times reported two unnamed senior Whitehall officials saying that the PM tried and failed to get Allan to tone down his report to find there was no clear evidence of bullying.
A No. 10 spokesman instead saying: “As you would expect, the Prime Minister spoke to Sir Alex Allan to further his understanding of the report.
“Sir Alex’s conclusions are entirely his own.”
Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said: “The prime minister does personally take these allegations exceedingly seriously. He loathes bullying.
“He did say that he would not tolerate bullying. He hasn’t tolerated bullying. It is not his belief that Priti Patel is a bully.”