The International Development Secretary Priti Patel resigned amid controversy over organising unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli officials.
Patel was summoned back from a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia by Downing Street after six days of revelations in the press, with growing pressure then on the PM to sack the cabinet minister.
Seen as a rising figure within the Conservative party, Priti Patel has been the MP for Witham in Essex since 2010.
Appointed as Secretary of State for International Development by Theresa May, the prominent Brexiteer was the only ethnic minority woman in the cabinet and was a representative of the right of the Tory party. Patel was found by the BBC to have held twelve work meetings during a 13-day family holiday to Israel in August without informing the Foreign Office. Lord Polak, honorary President of the Conservative Friends of Israel, arranged for Ms Patel to meet Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan, and Israeli foreign ministry official, Yuval Rotem, in talks without civil servants present.
After the visit, the International Development Secretary sought for Britain to support the humanitarian operations conducted by the Israeli army in the occupied Golan Heights area after allegedly visiting a military hospital there. The proposal was deemed “inappropriate” by the government as the UK, like much of the international community, does not recognise the region.
It is another blow to Theresa May’s government. Sir Michael Fallon had stood down seven days prior as Defence Secretary after concerns of alleged inappropriate behaviour towards women, along with calls for Boris Johnson to resign over his comments about a woman imprisoned in Iran.
No. 10 said it had not been made aware of the meetings in August, formally reprimanding Patel. But later, Patel was found to have organised two further meetings without government officials present with Yuval Rotem in New York and Gilad Erdan in Westminster — who can be seen pictured together with Patel on Twitter in September.
Ms Patel was forced to cut short her trip along with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox to return to the UK to face the new findings.The flight back to Britain was closely followed by broadcasters, with Flightradar 24 reporting that 22,000 users were tracking the plane’s journey back to London Heathrow through its service.
After a meeting with the PM that lasted six minutes, Priti Patel then announced her resignation, admitting in a letter to Mrs May: “While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.” In reply, Mrs May said: “As you know the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together. But that must be done formally, and through official channels.
“Now that further details have come to light it is right you have decided to resign.”