MI5 has rejected claims that its officials are withholding information from Priti Patel because they do not trust her.
An informed security source said the report about Patel’s relationship with the agency in the Sunday Times was “simply untrue” and that she was getting the same information from the agency as any other home secretary.
The report was published after a series of stories – which have not been fully denied – claiming that Patel has had a series of difficult relationships with officials during her ministerial career, and that she is currently trying to oust the permanent secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam.
The Sunday Times quoted unnamed officials claiming that MI5 found Patel “extremely difficult to deal with” and that she “doesn’t grasp the subtleties of intelligence”. One told the paper that she was now receiving less intelligence from MI5 than her predecessors as a consequence of her attitude.
Patel’s allies believe that officials are briefing against her because they do not like being challenged.
MI5 often refuses to respond to newspaper reports about the agency, but on Sunday a security source with knowledge of the situation claimed that it was wrong to say that information was being withheld from the home secretary.
“Reports suggesting that the home secretary and MI5 do not have a strong working relationship are simply untrue,” the source said. “The home secretary is briefed daily on intelligence matters in exactly the same way as any previous post holder. No information is being withheld. Any report suggesting otherwise is simply wrong and does not serve the public interest.”
Patel was first appointed to the cabinet in 2016 as international development secretary, when Theresa May was prime minister. She was forced to resign the following year after it emerged that she had failed to tell No 10 about a series of meetings she had had with Israeli ministers while she was visiting the country for what was supposed to be a holiday.
Boris Johnson took Westminster by surprise when he promoted her from the backbenches to become home secretary last summer but, because of her reputation as a hardliner on Brexit and on law and order, the appointment was popular with the Conservative party.