Britain’s Johnson has sought to tone down report on minister’s bullying, reports say

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Conservative Party Annual Conference in Manchester

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sought to tone down an independent report that one of his top ministers harassed his staff, two media outlets said on Saturday.

Johnson backed his Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday, despite an investigation finding she broke the ministerial code by shouting and insulting staff. The author of the report, government ethics counselor Alex Allan, has resigned.

On Saturday, the Times newspaper and the BBC said Johnson tried and failed to convince Allan to tone down his findings, particularly the claim that Patel’s behavior amounted to bullying.

“He read it all and didn’t think Alex’s conclusions agreed with the evidence itself,” The Times said, citing a government cabinet source. “He spoke to Alex and asked him if he would change the tone. Alex said no.”

A spokeswoman for Johnson’s office said the report reflected Allan’s thinking. “As you would expect, the Prime Minister spoke with Sir Alex Allan to deepen his understanding of the issues. Sir Alex’s conclusions are entirely his.”

Patel apologized for his behavior and Johnson, who decided the ministerial code had not been violated, said he had full confidence in his Home Secretary.

The issue comes at a difficult time for Johnson, who is trying to reset his government after his top adviser, Dominic Cummings, left Downing Street last week. His leadership and judgment have also been called into question over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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