Boris Johnson is being sued - here's why and what could happen

Boris Johnson is facing a legal challenge over his failure to sack Home Secretary, Priti Patel, after it came to light that she had bullied civil servants.

The Prime Minister is being sued by senior civil servants over ignoring the findings of an independent report into Ms Patel’s behaviour, which they allege was unlawful conduct.

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A pre-action notice was issued to Downing Street on 9 December, and a letter to government lawyers said that “if the prime minister’s decision stands it sets a damaging precedent which gives carte blanche” to ministers to bully their staff in future.

What does the lawsuit mean?

If the legal challenge is successful, it could mean that Mr Johnson’s decision to clear the Home Secretary is reversed, and the full investigation into her behaviour could be made public.

The FDA union, which represents many of the Home Office's civil servants, is bringing the legal challenge against the government. It said it has “no choice” but to challenge the decision.

General secretary of the FDA, Dave Penman, said that the civil servants who were bullied have been “let down” by their minister and “abandoned by the prime minister.”

“The prime minister’s words, that he chose to include in his foreword to the ministerial code, that ‘there must be no bullying and no harassment,’ are meaningless if they are not followed up by action,” Penman commented.

What did Priti Patel do?

A report put together by the Prime Minister's adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan, found that the home secretary had behaved in a way which “can be described as bullying” and amounted to a breach of the ministerial code.

The ministerial code is a set of standards and rules that government ministers must adhere to. It states, “Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the code and will not be tolerated.”

Sir Allan resigned from his post after Boris Johnson cleared the Home Secretary, and it emerged that the Prime Minister had asked his adviser to “tone down” the report prior to it being published.

Speaking after the report was published, Ms Patel issued an apology, saying, “I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people.”