As she arrived at 10 Downing Street to be forced to resign by hapless Tory leader Theresa May in November 2017, Priti Patel used a common celeb trick for the waiting photographers: She pretended to be listening to someone on her phone so she would be photographed smiling. She was not having any conversation, her phone was off. If she had smiled without a phone it would have looked odd. Hence she used a standard celeb ruse to get a smiling photograph on the front pages of the newspapers.
The use of such a con by Patel is indicative of her intrinsic dishonesty and of her contempt for professional political behaviour.
In August, Patel went to Israel to discuss arms deals and oil deals. She met senior government ministers, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some characters from the oil industry and senior military personnel. She entered Syria illegally to visit an illegal Israeli military base.
The meetings were unminuted (according to the Israeli government) and their existence was kept secret from the British people. Theresa May claimed that she had no knowledge of any such meetings until she was informed by a journalist three months later that they had taken place. But, the Israeli government, via journalist Stephen Pollard, claimed that May was aware of the meetings before they took place.
So, who is being more dishonest? Patel or May?
Is Patel the bigger liar?
If Theresa May, and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, were unaware of Patel’s plans and were not informed afterward of their content, then Priti Patel acted as a freelance politician. In such a scenario Patel brokered political deals with a foreign prime minster, brokered arms deals with foreign military and brokered financial deals with foreign businesses without instruction from the British government and without any official records of the meetings. A forced resignation would be a miniscule response to such behaviour. Additionally, she entered Syrian territory bypassing customs procedure and visa application. The Tory government’s website warns of what can happen for an illegal entry into Syria: “In June 2013, the Syrian [government] issued a new law stating that individuals who enter Syrian territories illegally will be punished by a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and/or a fine of 5 to 10 million Syrian pounds.” See Syrian visa requirements.
Is May the bigger liar?
If Theresa May knew in advance of Patel’s meetings in Israel and knew their purpose then May lied to the British people about her knowledge and May’s intent was that the meetings remain secret and unminuted. In such a scenario May was complicit in arranging government policy secretly with a foreign government including arms deals, business deals and discussion of policy with respect to Israel and Palestine. Such off-the-record meetings are unacceptable in a democracy.
For now, the Tory government’s position is that Priti Patel has wronged and not May. That position may change: The Israeli government claimed no minutes were taken but is has a reputation for being economical with the truth and, so, records of the meetings’ respective discussions may exist. Conversely, the same relationship with truth may mean that the information fed to Stephen Pollard is false.
Whichever of the two possibilities above is correct, the shenanigans have further exposed the machinations in the Tory cabinet, the abject weakness of Theresa May as a leader and the rancid corruption and dishonesty in the Tory ranks.