I don’t know what Priti Patel was thinking, admits Iain Duncan Smith
Even the international development secretary’s loyal fellow Brexiteer has struggled to defend her actions.
The recent behaviour of Priti Patel has left lobby journlaists wondering exactly what cabinet ministers need to do to get sacked these days.
"Patel didn't think it was worth telling Theresa May that she had met with a foreign leader on Friday morning - more than two months after she had returned to the UK," stated PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield. "It is hard to escape the conclusion that had she been a more expendable minister - Mark Garnier, for instance - or if the prime minister was in a position of strength, Patel would have faced a Cabinet Office inquiry at best, and her P45 at worst."
But the scale of the international development secretary’s misdemeanours have been most heavily underlined by Iain Duncan Smith struggling to defend his Brexiteer colleague.
Appearing on the BBC’s Daily Politics show, Duncan Smith initially stood firm when asked if Patel had lied when she erroneously claimed that Boris Johnson knew about her secret meetings with Israeli officials.
“No I think exactly what has happened is she’s had these meetings, I assume these were not meetings that were originally scheduled, and that having had these meetings she’s then informed Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office of what took place in those meetings.”
Asked if Patel’s secret meetings were in breach of the ministerial code, Duncan Smith then did his best to find an imaginative excuse for his colleague.
“Of course, the code should be interpreted as informing them in advance… But it may have been – and that’s what I take it as – that these were not planned as meetings and they came later on.”
But the former Tory leader and arch-Brexiteer finally cracked when presenter Jo Coburn asked why Patel had misled The Guardian by insisting that the Foreign Office had known about the meetings.He admitted:
"I don’t know what was in her mind when she said that."