Priti Patel today signals the return of zero-tolerance policing to make criminals ‘feel terror’ on the streets.
In her first interview as Home Secretary she pledges to restore flagging public confidence in law and order by ‘empowering’ officers to go after thugs.
‘Offenders should be fearful of committing any criminal activities on our streets,’ she tells the Daily Mail.
In her first interview as Home Secretary Priti Patel pledges to restore flagging public confidence in law and order by ‘empowering’ officers to go after thugs
‘Quite frankly, with more police officers out there and greater police presence, I want them to literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences.’
Miss Patel also warns chief constables not to ‘turn a blind eye’ to cannabis offences and:
- Speaks for the first time of her abuse at the hands of a racist online troll;
- Vows to restore ‘integrity’ to the immigration system but says it should not be a ‘superficial numbers game’;
- Criticises Theresa May’s government for not doing enough to prepare for a No Deal departure from the EU;
- Attacks Labour’s record on anti-Semitism, saying Jewish communities were ‘living in fear’;
- Claims she has never been an ‘active supporter’ of the death penalty despite her public statements backing capital punishment;
- In a separate move, Miss Patel has demanded a full explanation of the police watchdog’s decision to clear three officers over the bungled VIP sex abuse inquiry.
The MP made a spectacular return to the Cabinet last week two years after she was sacked for failing to inform Mrs May about clandestine meetings with senior members of the Israeli government.
Give me answers over ‘Nick’ police, she says
The new Home Secretary has demanded a full explanation of the police watchdog’s decision to clear three officers over the bungled VIP sex abuse inquiry.
Priti Patel met Michael Lockwood, head of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, on Thursday to quiz him over allegations against the officers who raided the homes of high-profile figures.
A former high court judge, Sir Richard Henriques, this week said police used false evidence to obtain search warrants for the properties of retired Armed Forces chief Lord Bramall, the widow of ex-home secretary Lord Brittan and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.
A source close to Miss Patel said of Thursday’s meeting: ‘She asked for an explanation of the decision. They discussed it in the meeting, and he is going to reply in writing. She wants a full explanation.’
In an article for the Mail this week, Sir Richard said police did not have the right to search the homes of Lord Bramall, Mr Proctor and Lord Brittan’s widow because their description of the complainant ‘Nick’ as a consistent witness was false.
Nick, whose real name is Carl Beech, was jailed last week for 18 years for perverting the course of justice.
Sir Richard suggested the officers involved should face a criminal investigation, but the IOPC responded by saying it had already concluded that there was ‘no suspicion of criminality’.
In its original probe it found officers acted with ‘due diligence and good faith’.
This week former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald accused the watchdog of conducting a ‘cursory investigation’ into the most senior officers, who were not even interviewed.
Conservative MPs also called for the probe to be reopened.
Misconduct allegations were first referred to the IOPC’s predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints commission, in 2016 but the investigation was not completed until earlier this month.
Sir Richard said he was surprised by the length of the inquiry, meaning officers could not recall which documents they had seen before making warrant applications.
Now she has been tasked by Boris Johnson with restoring the party’s battered reputation on law and order and getting a grip on rising crime.
Pledging to get a grip on the problem, Miss Patel tells the Mail: ‘The Conservative Party is the party of law and order. Full stop’
This week Miss Patel and Mr Johnson held the first meeting of the National Policing Board.
The Prime Minister has made fighting crime one of his core priorities in No 10 and will spend £1.1billion over the next three years recruiting 20,000 officers. The Home Office is also preparing to relax restrictions on stop and search.
Figures released last month showed 5.9million crimes were recorded in the past year – a 15-year high.
Violent offences in England and Wales rose 20 per cent to 1.6million, the highest total since 2002. Only one in 12 crimes leads to a charge or summons, leading to claims that officers have ‘given up’.
Pledging to get a grip on the problem, Miss Patel tells the Mail: ‘The Conservative Party is the party of law and order. Full stop. The defence of our nation, defence of our streets and law and order are at the heart of our values.’
She also sends a message to officers that she will support them in doing their jobs, saying the Tories are ‘the party of the police and police officers’.
‘My focus now is restating our commitment to law and order and restating our commitment to the people on the front line, the police,’ she adds.
This week Miss Patel and Mr Johnson held the first meeting of the National Policing Board
‘The key thing is that we empower them to stop criminality.’
‘Where I stand on the death penalty’
Priti Patel claims in today’s Daily Mail that she has never supported the death penalty.
However, the new Home Secretary told the Mail on Sunday in 2006: ‘If you had the ultimate punishment for the murder of policemen and other heinous crimes, I am sure it would act as a deterrent.
‘We must send a clear signal to people that crime doesn’t pay. The punishment must fit the crime and yes, I do support capital punishment.’ And in a Question Time appearance shortly after she entered Parliament in 2010 she said: ‘I would support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent. Because I do think we do not have enough deterrents in this country for criminals.’
But in an interview in this newspaper she says it was wrong to claim she backed the death penalty: ‘I have never said I’m an active supporter of it and [what I said] is constantly taken out of context.’
Last night a source close to Miss Patel said: ‘Priti doesn’t hide her views, the simple fact is she does not support the death penalty. When asked she wanted to correct the misconception that she supports the death penalty at the current time and was therefore making clear her views.’
She backs officers to ‘make their judgments’ when tackling criminals – a reference to police being criticised for knocking moped thugs off their bikes. And on the growing problem of ‘county lines’ drugs gangs, the Home Secretary calls for better intelligence-sharing to stop ‘vulnerable’ young people being targeted.
Official figures show nine in ten cannabis users and growers in some areas of England are being let off without a criminal charge. Miss Patel signals an uncompromising stance on drugs, saying: ‘Any form of drug use… you don’t turn a blind eye to it at all. It has a corrosive impact on people and communities.’
On immigration she says she wants to attract the ‘brightest and the best’ to Britain and refused to commit to cutting numbers. ‘It shouldn’t be a numbers game,’ she says. ‘It should be about the wider contribution of people that come to our country and do contribute.
‘I’m not going to get involved in arbitrary targets and figures because I think that is superficial.’ Post-Brexit, she says, a new Australian-style points system for immigration will ‘focus on skills we need, bringing the brightest and the best here and contribute to our country in the way we’ve seen immigrants do for generations’.
On leaving the EU, she says she is working relentlessly on No Deal planning – but admits ‘ideally’ Brussels would offer a new agreement.
Priti’s Project Fear! Home Secretary vows to terrorise criminals as she reveals her Tory grit was inspired by values she learned from her shopkeeper parents in first interview
We are standing in a car park in the middle of the industrial Port of Tilbury on the north bank of the Thames. There are vast hulking cranes, stacks of containers and, not far away, what appears to be a slag heap.
But the new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is beaming. ‘Welcome to Essex!’ she says.
She has good reason to be happy and it’s not just that we’re among her people. ‘It’s Brexit County! They voted 70 per cent Brexit!’
For Ms Patel, 47, was unarguably the biggest winner when Boris Johnson selected his ministers last week. Sacked by Theresa May two years ago, she has made the leap back into one of the Big Four Cabinet jobs.
She’s also winning on Brexit. One of the 30 or so Tory ‘Spartans’ who voted against May’s deal on every possible occasion, she now has a Prime Minister prepared to entertain No Deal.
And that is why we’re in Tilbury, where she and Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, are announcing a doubling of No Deal spending to get ready to leave ‘come what may’ on October 31.
Last week, just two days after her appointment, a man from Oldham was jailed after a series of vicious messages including one to Ms Patel calling her a ‘dirty Indian Ugandan, black P*** n*****’. Priti Patel is pictured as a baby with her mother
Dressed in a dark blue skirt suit accessorised with tasselled gold loafers (and a hard hat and high-viz vest when required), Ms Patel is being given a tour of the port. It is one of the UK’s largest, handling around 650,000 import and export units each year as well as raw materials and so represents the enormous trade opportunities she sees post-Brexit.
And she has found like minds here. One senior official tells me No Deal will be ‘like the millennium bug’ — lots of worry for no reason. Tilbury is ready, Ms Patel insists. ‘They’ve been ready for No Deal for about the same amount of time as I have. They are more than ready. There’s no Project Fear in Essex, you see.’
Then it’s into the ministerial car to the Home Office where the gold loafers are replaced by cream heels, and Priti Patel is telling me about her whirlwind first week in the job.
She talks ten to the dozen during a wide-ranging interview that covers everything from her aspirations as Home Secretary to her childhood working alongside her parents in their shops.
She also speaks for the first time of her own bruising experiences of racism and online trolling and their impact on her life.
Last week, just two days after her appointment, a man from Oldham was jailed after a series of vicious messages including one to Ms Patel calling her a ‘dirty Indian Ugandan, black P*** n*****’.
In her statement to the police, London-born Ms Patel described the content as ‘hugely upsetting’ and ‘intimidating’.
‘I have had a lot of hate crime online,’ she tells me. ‘I’m a Member of Parliament and I attract all kind of comments. There has been, over the years, a catalogue of things. They did a full investigation and saw that there was a history of abusive attacks, the type of stuff [the Oldham man] was saying. It is appalling.’
Now she’s in the Home Office, she is determined to tackle this and the wider problem of online abuse. ‘I have been clear that I don’t think we should accept or tolerate abusive language, hate crimes, intimidation at all.
‘We are privileged to live in the type of country we live in with free speech and a free society and I’m a great believer in that. But at the same time we do have our laws.’
So what did she think about Donald Trump’s ‘Go Home’ remark to four Congresswomen of colour — three of whom were born in the U.S. and the other who had come as a child refugee?
Ms Patel’s quickfire quiz reveals her favourite quote is one of Winston Churchill’s – ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’
‘That doesn’t have a place in this country,’ she says firmly. Ms Patel was one of six black or ethnic minority politicians appointed to Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, a fact that sent Corbynistas into meltdown.
Labour MP Clive Lewis said they had to ‘sell your souls and your self-respect to get there.’ She has no time for this type of ‘identity politics.
‘He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s an insult to people from different communities that come to our country, contribute to our country and work hard to get on in life.’
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She does worry, though, about growing levels of racism in Britain, particularly anti-Semitism. Part of her childhood was spent in Hertfordshire, she says, in a predominantly Jewish community and she ‘didn’t know what racism was’.
‘I talk to my mum and dad about this a lot still…I used to get on the school bus with all the other girls and we were quite fearless. None of us were getting racist abuse, or anti-Jewish remarks.
‘I’m having to teach my son about behaviours and what is acceptable and not acceptable and there is no place for racism. There is no place for hate, in particular against other people.
‘And now we have communities that live in fear of that. And that is completely unacceptable.’
Ms Patel is keen to share her initial impressions of her new job and how 24-hour police protection is ‘quite strange’ and takes a bit of getting used to.
No, she hasn’t seen Bodyguard, the steamy BBC hit drama about a Home Secretary (played by Keeley Hawes) and her affair with her close protection officer (a famously bare-buttocked Richard Madden) and she ‘probably won’t have time to’ now.
She does worry, though, about growing levels of racism in Britain, particularly anti-Semitism. Part of her childhood was spent in Hertfordshire, she says, in a predominantly Jewish community and she ‘didn’t know what racism was.’ Ms Patel is pictured as a child with her father
Nor, apparently, has her husband Alex Sawyer, a marketing consultant. Probably for the best.
But there is one member of the family who’s excited about the arrival of armed officers at their home and their super-fast cars — and that’s her ten-year-old son Freddie.
Priti Patel has one of the biggest briefs in Government — with responsibility for crime, security, counter terrorism and immigration. Not for no reason is it known as the ‘graveyard of political ambitions’. In just the past few days, she’s met leaders from our closest intelligence-sharing allies at a ‘Five Eyes’ conference.
Alongside the PM, she hosted the first meeting of the National Policing Board, and next she’s heading off to a meeting of the National Security Council.
She’s been so busy she hasn’t had a chance to choose the artwork for her vast office so the choice of her predecessor Sajid Javid remains.
Her return to Cabinet took many in Westminster — and in her own party — by surprise. Her sacking as Secretary of State for International Development in 2017 came after it emerged she had held a series of unauthorised meetings with senior ministers in the Israeli government while on holiday there.
She admitted in her resignation letter that her conduct ‘fell below the standards expected’.
Does she have something to prove having been given a second chance? After all, one of her favourite quotes, she tells me, is: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal…’ from a man who knew both, Winston Churchill. ‘I’m focused on getting on with the job,’ she says. ‘I was doing a job previously, I don’t want to talk about the circumstances of it all, but I’m focused on doing a really big job at a time in British politics where we’ve got to prove to the British people we’re going to leave the EU on October 31.’
Is she going to answer my question? She is not.
There are many reasons why Priti Patel is expected to be a good fit at the Home Office. As a new Tory MP in 2010 she quickly gained a reputation as an unapologetic hardliner on law and order.
So who better to convince the public the new Government is going to do something about it? Rising violence on Britain’s streets and the explosion in ‘county lines’ drugs gangs has made this issue a weak spot for the Tories, something Ms Patel is keen to reverse.
Among the Government’s first pledges was £1.1 billion to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers over the next three years. She says her mission is to ‘restore public confidence in policing’.
‘I fundamentally think the Conservative Party is the party of law and order. Full stop.’
Referencing Margaret Thatcher, her political hero — and, given her penchant for a particular shade of blue and the odd pussycat bow, perhaps a sartorial role model, too — she says that ‘defence of our nation, defence of our streets and law and order are at the heart of our values’.
‘My focus now is restating our commitment to law and order and restating our commitment to the people on the front line, the police.
‘I’ve always felt the Conservative Party is the party of the police and police officers… quite frankly, with more police officers out there and greater police presence, I want [criminals] to literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences.’
She wants officers to feel able to use their powers to the full. ‘The key thing is that we empower them to stop criminality.’
Should they be allowed to knock moped thugs off their bikes during a pursuit? They should ‘make their judgments’, she says.
She also wants better intelligence sharing to stop ‘vulnerable young people’ being targeted by county lines drugs gangs.
Ms Patel is particularly aggrieved by the suggestion some forces are ignoring drug possession offences. ‘Any form of drug use — you don’t turn a blind eye to it at all. It has a corrosive impact on people and communities.’
So far, so very Patel. But she’s not quite the hang ’em and flog ’em caricature her opponents present.
Her views on punishment certainly appear to have softened.
She famously backed the death penalty in her early years in politics — indeed, it’s probably what she’s best known for.
At her selection meeting to represent Witham in Essex in 2006, she reportedly was cheered when she said she backed restoring capital punishment.
She told the Mail on Sunday at the time: ‘If you had the ultimate punishment for the murder of policemen and other heinous crimes, I am sure it would act as a deterrent. We must send a clear signal to people that crime doesn’t pay. The punishment must fit the crime and yes, I do support capital punishment.’
But not any more it seems. What made you change your mind, I ask? Her reply is surprising, to say the least. ‘So that is wrong [to say I supported the death penalty].
‘So many people say this. I was asked about deterrents in crime and I think we need more deterrents obviously.’
She never supported the death penalty, then?
‘I have never said I’m an active supporter of it and [what I said] is constantly taken out of context.’
I try again — what about what she said on Question Time in 2010? The quote ‘may have been clipped’ to change the way it was ‘presented’, she says.
However, when I check afterwards the quote is fairly unequivocal. Ms Patel said: ‘I would support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent because I do think we do not have enough deterrents in this country for criminals.’
Readers will have to make up their own minds whether this is a memory lapse or a possible rewriting of history.
And on prison, too, she is adopting a softer stance. She refuses to agree with the Michael Howard dictum that ‘prison works’.
‘We are doing much more with prisoners in rehabilitation. You need that. You cannot just support this cycle of reoffending’.
There is also a change of tone on immigration. Boris Johnson has scrapped the target of reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ — a figure that Theresa May never got close to hitting.
Instead, Ms Patel says she wants to restore ‘public confidence’ in the immigration system and its ‘integrity’. ‘It shouldn’t be a numbers game. It should be about the wider contribution of people that come to our country and do contribute.
‘I’m not going to get involved in arbitrary targets and figures because I think that is superficial.’
Post Brexit, she says, a new Australian-style points system will ‘focus on skills we need, bringing the brightest and the best here and contribute to our country in the way we’ve seen immigrants do for generations.’ Certainly, it’s easy for her to tell a positive story about immigration to Britain because it’s one she and her family have lived.
Originally from Gujarat in India, her maternal family moved to Uganda in the early 20th century and prospered in business.
But like all the 80,000 Asians living there, they were expelled by the murderous dictator Idi Amin in the Seventies and had all their possessions seized.
Her parents, Sushil and Anjana, initially lodged in one small room in North London while he completed his studies in engineering.
Eventually, they were able to buy a small house in Harrow and used that to secure a bank loan for their first shop, a newsagent in Tottenham.
Priti and her younger sister and brother were frequently called upon to work alongside their parents in the several shops and sub-post offices they ran in Nottingham, Ipswich and Norwich.
When Priti became secondary school age, the family bought an upmarket chocolate shop in Hertfordshire where there were good state schools, including Watford Grammar where she was head girl.
The family were ‘very outward facing, very international but we’re very conservative in terms of our values,’ she says. ‘My parents are shopkeepers and had a hard time getting established in the UK.’
The experience informed her politics — just as it did the young Thatcher, daughter of a Grantham grocer.
‘In 1983, my dad was doing pretty well as a small businessman and he basically said, ‘‘Look, we can only have this roof over our head because we have the freedom to succeed. Thanks to Conservative policies, values, beliefs, [and] Margaret Thatcher.’’
She joined the Conservative Party as a sixth former. Was it a middle- class upbringing?
‘I don’t think of myself as middle class at all,’ Ms Patel says. ‘I came from a family that worked seven days a week. We had a hard, hard time, running businesses.’
Her early life also informed her attitude to money. ‘There’s a joke in my household — my husband thinks I was brought up under the till because I am a money obsessive.’
So she holds the purse strings? ‘Exactly that.’
And that prudence also extends to the public purse. ‘That’s why I constantly go on about value for money. And I think that’s part of our DNA as Conservatives.’
Now Brexit, too, is part of the party’s DNA in her view. She was an early and fervent advocate.
She admits that ‘ideally’ the European Union would give way and negotiate a new agreement, but she is working ‘relentlessly’ on preparations for a No Deal, as are ministers ‘across Government’, adding pointedly ‘in a way which clearly may have not happened in the past’.
‘My role right now, along with everybody in this department, is to prepare for every scenario. It is in our public interest, it is in our national interest,’ she says. ‘It’s the duty of government to do this.’
On the walls of the Home Office are the portraits of her predecessors dating back to the 18th century, the vast majority of them white men.
She is the first woman from an ethnic minority background to hold the role and that is something of which she is clearly and rightly proud.
‘I think it says something about our country,’ Ms Patel tells me.
‘We live in a great country, an absolutely brilliant country that speaks about meritocracy and opportunity and freedom, and the freedom to succeed.’
She’s determined to prove that all over again.
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