Patel brings down the cabinet?

Will Priti Patel bring down the cabinet, or has she just scuppered herself?

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Will Priti Patel's actions bring down Theresa May's cabinet?

By Joe Harker

At some point Theresa May must be wondering if the universe hates her. She is prime minister, but her government has lurched from one catastrophe to another. Not only is her Foreign Secretary one of her rivals in the Tory party, but he has also blundered badly enough to put a British citizen at risk in Iran.

If she had hoped things would get better, someone had a different idea. Priti Patel was the Secretary of State for International Development before her forced resignation, and has been caught having secret meetings with the Israeli government where she suggested that UK foreign aid money could fund their armed forces.

May is in a weak position where she cannot just sack ministers who have been incompetent or duplicitous, but if she doesn't do anything the message will be clear: the Prime Minister cannot do anything to remove members of the cabinet. She had to move against Patel, but she is not in a strong position to fight off other members of her cabinet, and some blame may fall on her head for appointing Patel. Sacking her was perhaps the only option left open to the prime minister, but it may not be so easy for other members of the cabinet to get the boot.

The Financial Times suggests that the recent ineptitude of cabinet ministers exposes the prime minister's waning power in her own government. While the incident reflects badly on Patel and has led to her expulsion from the cabinet, it also looks terrible for the prime minister to be presiding over such a disastrous government. If May knew about Patel's meetings with the Israeli government then she is as complicit as the minister, if she did not know then it makes her look incompetent and unaware of the actions of her own ministers.

The Guardian believes that Patel's downfall will boost Boris Johnson's standing in the cabinet. While his own blunder was awful, it has been overtaken by Patel's mistake and that could end up taking all the attention off him. In addition, the prime minister may not be able to sack both Johnson and Patel, but as the latter was the one making more headlines then she was the likely candidate to be sacked.

The PM has also been called a "martyr without a cause", as she is suffering death by a thousand ineptitudes but is not making progress on delivering Brexit or her policies.

Whatever May's Britain is supposed to look like, this is almost certainly not it. There will be more blunders and disasters after Priti Patel, but this might be the one that illustrates just how weak a position Theresa May is in.

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