Labour today demanded Priti Patel steps down after an inquiry was launched into bullying claims against her.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the Home Secretary must step back temporarily while the Cabinet Office probe is carried out.
And Labour said if the probe finds Ms Patel – who denies wrongdoing, including bullying – broke the Ministerial Code, she would have to be sacked altogether.
Ms Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m afraid it would be better if she stepped down. We are calling on her to step down while the inquiry goes on.”
It comes after Ms Patel’s most senior civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, quit and accused the Home Secretary of lying about whether she was involved in a “vicious” briefing campaign against him.
Sir Philip said he was aware of allegations about her “shouting and swearing” at staff.
Ms Abbott rejected Tory claims that Ms Patel was a victim of a racist or sexist hate campaign.
She said: “This is not about things online or to and fro with interviewers. This is about one of the great departments of state. You cannot have a Home Secretary at odds with her senior officials in this way.”
Describing the situation as “open warfare”, Ms Abbott – along with the FDA civil service union – demanded the Cabinet Office inquiry is replaced with an independent probe overseen by an external lawyer.
She said: “I’ve been an MP for 30 years. I’ve never seen a permanent secretary say he’s going to take the government to an industrial tribunal before.”
It comes after it was alleged a former aide of Priti Patel attempted suicide after being bullied by her – years before she became Home Secretary.
It was reportedly claimed the then-Employment Minister shouted at the woman, telling her to “get lost”.
The aide allegedly took an overdose in her office in 2015.
After she became unresponsive, her partner was called, according to legal correspondence reported by the BBC.
The letter said the woman took a further overdose at home in what was described as a suicide attempt. She is thought to have been a member of Ms Patel’s private office while the Tory was Employment Minister.
It was said the staff member alleged she was told Ms Patel had decided to dismiss her because she did not “like her face”.
The PM’s official spokesman refused to say whether a probe will take place. And he declined to say if No10 knew of a complaint against Ms Patel as Employment Minister when she took the job of Home Secretary last year.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said a probe has been launched to “establish the facts” but praised Ms Patel. Ms Patel denies bullying or mistreating staff.
Boris Johnson said she is doing an “outstanding job” and a source close to Ms Patel said she had been unaware of the earlier complaint.
But Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday: “It is not enough just to refer this to the Cabinet Office. The Government must now call in an external lawyer, as has quite rightly been suggested by the union of senior civil servants, the First Division Association.
“A Minister in breach of the ministerial code cannot remain in office and should be dismissed.”