British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Priti Patel is a "fantastic" home secretary as he backed his senior Cabinet minister amid a row over the resignation of her top civil servant.
Philip Rutnam, the Home Office's most senior official, resigned on Saturday citing a "vicious and orchestrated" campaign against him.
Johnson was asked about the controversy and allegations of bullying against the Indian-origin minister by Rutnam, her former permanent secretary, during a visit to Public Health England in north London on Sunday evening to address the rising fears around the spread of the coronavirus in Britain.
"Absolutely," he said, when asked if he had confidence in Patel. "I think she is a fantastic home secretary. Anybody who has been home secretary will testify that it is one of the toughest jobs in the government," the prime minister said.
In the context of what is being pegged as a clash between politicians and the civil service, Johnson also expressed his "admiration" for the country's civil servants, whom he described as "brilliant alpha minds".
"There is a big, big task ahead of us now. We are delivering, at last, a new immigration system for this country, a points-based immigration system," he said in reference to the new visa regime unveiled by Patel last month.