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Malia Bouattia

Boris Johnson's new cabinet is a roll call of disgraced Tories

Priti Patel was previously forced to resign over unofficial meetings with Israelis [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 July, 2019

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Comment: In addition to her shady dealings with the Israel lobby, Priti Patel has a disturbing track record of waging war on migrants, women and the incarcerated, writes Malia Bouattia.
As if Boris Johnson being prime minister wasn't bad enough, he has now appointed a long list of hard right Tory MPs to cabinet, including Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Amber Rudd, Munira Mirza and his own brother, the former Brexit Remainer, Jo Johnson. 

And to top it all off, Jacob Rees-Mogg is now leader of the House of Commons. 

If anybody was still in doubt about the full take over of the Party's hard right, the last few days should have settled that.

This government will represent a significant intensification of attacks on working class people, oppressed communities, and the welfare state.

This cabinet's collective track record should be enough to disgust anyone with an inch of social conscience, yet we saw both the Board of Deputies and the Muslim Council of Britain fall over themselves to congratulate Johnson for his new position, despite his
open links to the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic right.

Even commentators such as
Sunny Hundal and Mehdi Hassan have been celebrating the diversity of the new government.  

Unfortunately, this article is not long enough to detail all the reasons why this is outrageous, or to cover all the potential candidates in detail. There will no doubt be opportunities in the future to so. For now though, let's focus on one: Priti Patel is our new home secretary. 

Just a cursory look at Patel's voting record should be enough to make the message clear.

Her accomplishments include supporting the death penalty - a position she claims to have since reconsidered, - opposing preventing pregnant women being thrown into detention centres, calling for stricter asylum policies, and championing Modi's far-right government in India.

This cabinet's collective track record should be enough to disgust anyone with an inch of social conscience

Unsurprisingly, human rights and migrant campaigners have already rung the alarm bell on news of her appointment. Indeed, after the successive reigns of May, Rudd and Javid in the Home Office, who have presided over and intensified the war on migrants, Muslims, and minorities, the appointment of Patel should remind us that things can always get worse. 

Just last winter, Javid called back military ships to patrol the channel, supposedly to stop people illegally entering the country. 

Lest we forget the highlight of her last post in May's cabinet, that saw her conduct secret meetings with 12 Israeli officials, businessmen and lobbyists, and even Netanyahu himself. Disgraced, she was summoned by May and to forced to fly back from Nairobi to resign as international development secretary.

She recognised in her resignation letter that by holding these secret meetings with representatives of foreign governments, she "fell below the high standards that are expected of a Secretary of State". 

In addition to this, her take away from visiting the occupied Golan Heights - illegally annexed by Israel from Syria after the 1967 war - was that UK aid money should be given to the Israeli army for their field hospitals where fighters were treated before being sent back into Syria.

Supporting far right politicians in India was not enough, Patel also wanted to mark her disdain for the Palestinian and Syrian people and their most basic rights to land and liberation.

Not only is this relevant in terms of Patel's politics and her stance on international law or the rights of the Palestinian people, but it also seems that she is making a habit of backdoor dodgy dealings.

Indeed, since her appointment a new scandal has already started breaking. It appears that Patel is on the
pay roll - consulting at over $1,000 an hour - of a California based private company, Viasat, which supplies the Ministry of Defence.

Patel will work closely with the MoD, including in the context of the government Innovation and Research Insights (IRIS) Unit, through which both departments will sign off on technology-based contracts.

The conflict of interest is almost too big to be believable.

Even Liberal Democrat Ed Davey couldn't help but point out the obvious when he said: "Priti Patel has already been forced out of the cabinet once for dodgy meetings. You'd think she'd be more careful with her second chance… It is unacceptable for any cabinet minister to be a paid advisor for a company with government contracts."

It seems that Priti Patel is making a habit of backdoor dodgy dealings

And yet, here we are. Patel appointed, the Home Office in the hands of an avid supporter of authoritarian, repressive, and Islamophobic governments abroad with her own track record of waging war on migrants, women, and the incarcerated, and the undeniable likelihood of more violence meted out by the state against the most vulnerable amongst us.

It should surprise no one when in the near future new horror stories such as the
 Windrush scandal hit the headlines. This appointment is basically a call for more of exactly the same. 

So when I'm told to recognise that her presence in the role - as a woman of colour and daughter of parents who migrated from Uganda - is an important step forward for inclusion and diversity, I beg to disagree.

No, her appointment is yet another reminder that to be accepted, we have to wage war on our own, and be prepared to destroy the proverbial ladder behind us. The only prize is liberation and, as always, none of us are free until we all are.


Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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