May flounders in fresh crises
Enfeebled UK Prime Minister Theresa May is dealing with two more crises as it was revealed her international development secretary, Priti Patel (pictured), while on holiday in Israel held 12 secret meetings, including one with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She even discussed sending aid money to the Israeli armed forces. And bungling Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made an incorrect statement that has extended a British-Iranian citizen’s jail sentence by five years.
Conservative MP Anna Soubry said Patel had “screwed up big time” and would have to quit and Johnson had been “screwing up from the day he was appointed” and should have been sacked “over a month ago”.
Pro-EU Soubry told the BBC that May now had “nothing to lose” by triggering a “top to bottom” reshuffle.
The paralysis caused by Brexit and the divisions in the cabinet have meant neither minister is apparently going to be sacked.
Having already lost defence secretary Michael Fallon and with two other ministers under threat from sexual abuse allegations, May has declared Patel is going nowhere and Johnson dismissed calls for his resignation.
Patel held the meetings in Israel without telling the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a clear breach of protocol, and the meetings were arranged with input from Stuart Polak of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group.
Patel asked her departmental staff to examine whether taxpayers’ money could support humanitarian operations by the Israeli Defence Forces in the Golan Heights, which was seized from Syria in 1967. Britain regards the Golan as occupied territory and she was given the thumbs down.
Patel was also forced to issue an embarrassing clarification, retreating from the false impression she gave the Guardian that Johnson was aware of her Israeli meetings.
Johnson at the end of October said British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s conviction for sedition was a mockery of justice as she had been “simply teaching people journalism”.
The mother of one was in Iran on a two-week holiday visiting her family in March 2016 when she was arrested while boarding a flight from Tehran.
Johnson’s comments were condemned by the 39-year-old’s family and her employers at Thompson Reuters Foundation, which said she had never conducted media training for the organisation.
She originally moved to the UK from Tehran in 2007, marrying her husband Richard Ratcliffe in 2009 where she gained acquired British-Iranian nationality.
After his comments, Zaghari Ratcliffe was brought before an Iranian judge under charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime” and threatening to extend her sentence.
International development secretary, Priti Patel. Picture credit: Flickr