Theresa May’s weakness as prime minister has allowed her most ambitious ministers to do their own thing
As a prime minister drained of authority struggles to hold her party together, ambitious ministers feel increasingly able to cock a snook with impunity. This week’s rows over Boris Johnson’s dangerous handling of a disagreement with Iran, and Priti Patel’s freelance policymaking in the Middle East may seem a coincidence. But the conduct of the foreign secretary is bound together with that of the international development secretary. Both Mr Johnson and Ms Patel are able to play fast and loose because normal collective cabinet disciplines no longer apply. The prime minister is afraid to reprimand or sack. In this government it is everyone for themselves.
As the more senior and high-profile minister, one might say that Mr Johnson’s conduct is the more serious. A week ago, he told the Commons foreign affairs select committee that the British woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was still detained in Iran but “she was simply teaching people journalism as I understand it”. This claim was untrue, but hardliners in Iran were quick to seize on the remarks. “His statement shows that Nazanin had visited the country for anything but a holiday,” an Iranian legal website concluded, accusing her of spreading propaganda instead. As a result, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has already been in prison for 19 months accused of plotting to overthrow the regime, risks further charges and punishments.
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Link : The Guardian view on Boris Johnson and Priti Patel: incompetent, insubordinate and still in office | Editorial