Priti Patel praised for response to 'gotcha' question about sexist Boris Johnson comment

·3-min read

Watch: Priti Patel praised for response to Peston question on how she'd deal with workplace sexism

Home secretary Priti Patel has been praised for the way she handled a question about workplace sexism that involved a comment made by Boris Johnson.

Patel was asked by ITV's Robert Peston what she would say to a male colleague if he said the best way to manage her was to "pat you on your bottom and send you on your way".

She replied that it was "unacceptable" and "appalling" – for Peston to then reveal that the comment had been made by Boris Johnson after he left his role at The Spectator.

But Patel remained unphased by the revelation, saying: "I wouldn't hesitate", going on to add: "I've worked in all sorts of other professional sectors and I've worked in the City and I've heard all sorts of things said about female colleagues which are simply unacceptable.

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She went on: "I'm not the type of person – I think it's pretty well known – to sit back and accept really quite disparaging and derogatory remarks.

"I myself have been subject to things of that nature in the past and I just don't think that's acceptable and I would speak out against that."

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Her response elicited rare praise for the home secretary, with shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy saying: "Priti Patel is right on this", though adding: "possibly this alone".

Financial Times political correspondent Jim Pickard joined in praising the home secretary saying the way she had handled the "curveball" was "actually quite impressive".

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In the initial question, Peston said: "If one of your male colleagues said about you that the best way to manage you was to pat you on her bottom and send you on her way what would you say to that male colleague?"

Patel replied: "It's fair to say that I would say to my colleague if that ever happened that that is just simply unacceptable. That is simply not respectful, it's appalling."

The rare praise for Patel's response comes amid controversial plans to overhaul the immigration system.

On Thursday, Gibraltar hit back at suggestions the UK could send asylum seekers there for processing, with chief minister Fabian Picardo saying he had written to the home secretary to say it will not happen.

In his letter to Patel, Picardo said there were constitutional and legal issues, as well as the “geographic limitations” of the British overseas territory which prevented it being used to process asylum seekers.

Patel has vowed to stop migrants making the perilous journey across the English Channel and is expected to publish details of plans overhauling the UK’s asylum and immigration system in the coming weeks.

The Times said plans due to be set out by the home secretary will include a consultation on changing the law so that migrants seeking asylum can be sent to processing centres in third countries.

The Daily Mail suggested the plans would see migrants banned from claiming asylum in the UK if they have arrived from a safe country such as France, with their cases deemed “inadmissible”.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Tories are lurching from one inhumane, ridiculous proposal to another. ”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “It is disgraceful that Priti Patel is still peddling her unworkable and inhumane asylum proposals.”

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