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Cabinet profile: Priti Patel, the yo-yo minister welcomed in from the cold

The MP for Witham is an ambitious Brexiteer and free market enthusiast from the right of the party.

Priti Patel (David Mirzeof/PA)
Priti Patel (David Mirzeof/PA)

New Home Secretary Priti Patel was a rising star in Theresa May’s Conservative Party whose fall, and subsequent recovery, have been equally swift.

Boris Johnson’s decision to appoint her to one of the great offices of state raised eyebrows at Westminster because of her previous comments in favour of the death penalty and the manner of her departure from Cabinet in 2017.

An ambitious Brexiteer and free market enthusiast from the right of the party, she had been tipped for further promotion in a Cabinet in which Mrs May was keen to highlight female talent.

She was widely believed to harbour leadership ambitions, and some Westminster watchers regarded the “freelancing” meetings with members of the Israeli government which led to her downfall as part of a possible drive to boost her personal contacts and standing ahead of an eventual pitch for the top spot.

Elected to Parliament in 2010 at the age of 38, she achieved ministerial rank four years later as exchequer secretary to the Treasury, before promotion to employment minister following David Cameron’s 2015 general election victory.

She was one of the ministers who took advantage of Mr Cameron’s decision to allow members of his Government to argue on both sides of the EU referendum and played a prominent role in the Leave campaign.

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Priti Patel with David Cameron (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Her appointment as international development secretary was greeted with concern by some in the aid community, who recalled that she had previously called for her new ministry to be replaced by a Department for International Trade and Development with greater focus on boosting UK business opportunities in the developing world.

But she was forced to resign from the Cabinet in November 2017 over secret meetings with senior Israeli figures, and acknowledged that her actions “fell below the high standards” expected.

Thousands of people followed the progress of her plane as she returned from a trip to Kenya for a showdown with Mrs May.

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Priti Patel was international development secretary (Yui Mok/PA)

Her views on the death penalty were thrust into the spotlight in 2011 when she used an appearance on Question Time to say she would “support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent” to “murderers and rapists” who re-offend.

But in 2016, she told MPs that she did not support the death penalty.

The 47-year-old Witham MP was born in Harrow, north London, the daughter of parents who came to Britain from Idi Amin’s Uganda in the 1960s.

She studied at a comprehensive school in Watford before taking a degree in economics, sociology and social anthropology at Keele University and a post-graduate diploma in government and politics at Essex.

PA

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