- Priti Patel’s trip to Africa cut short with widespread expectations that she faces the sack.
- New revelations of secret meetings between Patel, the Israeli government and a conservative lobbyist emerge.
- Downing Street is reluctant to lose another senior government figure following the departure of the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.
LONDON — International Development Secretary Priti Patel is widely expected to be sacked today following further revelations about her secret meetings with senior figures in the Israeli government.
Patel is at the time of writing on her way back to London from a trip to Africa at the request of Prime Minister Theresa May, amid speculation that she is to be sacked.
The International Development Secretary had so far weathered the revelations, with Downing Street reluctant to lose another senior figure after the departure of the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon last week.
However, the Times today reports that she held two further undisclosed meetings with senior figures in the Israeli government.
The meetings followed her visit to Israel in August this year in which she held 12 unauthorised meetings, including with its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Downing Street was not told about these meetings until Friday last week, a spokesperson told Business Insider on Monday.
However, the Times today revealed that Patel met with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli security minister, in parliament on September 7. She also met with Yuval Rotem, an official from the Israeli foreign ministry, at the UN general assembly in New York. The Conservative lobbyist and director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak, attended all but one of the meetings Patel held with senior Israeli figures.
Patel had failed to declare these meetings with the prime minister, even following the revelations about her Israel trip last week.
Asked by Business Insider on Tuesday whether Patel had had any further undisclosed meetings since her trip, a spokesperson for Theresa May said in a carefully worded statement: “The Secretary of State has been clear with Number 10 that on no other occasions while a minister has she organised meetings with foreign government ministers outside the no marl channels while on holiday.”
They did not exclude that other meetings had taken place outside of her holidays.
It also emerged on Tuesday that Patel had sought to authorise the payment of foreign aid to the Israeli Army, following the meetings. The foreign office said the request had been declined as it was “not appropriate.”
Patel under pressure
May initially refused to act on Patel, declining all requests to launch an official Cabinet Office investigation into her. On Tuesday the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said the prime minister considered the case on Patel “closed”.
Burt was forced to answer questions on Patel’s future after she took an earlier than scheduled flight in order to arrive at a pre-planned visit to Africa. Conservative backbenchers were notable in their absence in defending the International Defence Secretary.
If Patel is forced out she will be the second minister to leave the Cabinet in the space of a week. Last week Michael Fallon resigned as defence secretary after being accused of sexual misconduct in the scandal that has engulfed Westminster.
The foreign secretary Boris Johnson has also been under pressure to resign this week following an “extraordinary” verbal blunder this week, which could lead to a British woman being kept in an Iranian jail for a further five years.
Johnson yesterday refused to give a full apology, claiming that his words had been “misconstrued” and “taken out of context”.
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