However, she is now in danger of alienating her conservative base after her plan to discourage illegal crossing of the Channel by sending asylum seekers to Rwanda fell through.
Patel insisted she “wouldn’t be deterred” after it emerged that all the migrants to be sent on the first plane to Rwanda had been removed Tuesday night following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
If the highly controversial issue is not resolved, at a time when the number of migrants crossing the road is reaching record levels, pressure will mount from all sides.
Patel is already reeling from her crackdown on Ukrainian asylum seekers, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to sideline her and appoint a new refugee minister.
It all adds up to a decline in fortune for Patel, 50, who survived a government resignation and a damning internal report about her alleged harassment of officials.
A free marketer and a staunch proponent of Brexit, Patel’s tough stance on immigration has been a hallmark of her time as Home Secretary in charge, despite her own family background.
Unveiling Britain’s new “points-based” immigration model on leaving the European Union, Patel admitted on LBC radio in February 2020 that the system would have kept people like her parents out.
They are Gujarati Indians from Uganda who fled to Britain in the 1960s and set up a chain of newsagents shortly before dictator Idi Amin expelled Asians from the East African country.
Her political heroine Margaret Thatcher was the daughter of a greengrocer, and Patel says she shares the former Tory Prime Minister’s dedication to small business, hard work and frugality.
“Coming from a country where you are persecuted means you want to work hard and contribute to the society you end up in,” she said in a 2012 interview.
Patel said her family’s Hindu values combined with her experiences of racial abuse during her childhood in Watford, north of London, fueled her determination to succeed.
After college, Patel headed the news agency for the short-lived anti-EU referendum party in the 1997 general election, before joining the conservative leadership’s media operation.
She left in 2000 to work in public and corporate relations, including for beverage multinational Diageo.
Then Conservative leader David Cameron placed Patel on a so-called A-list of future MPs and put her in a safe place in the 2010 general election before appointing her Secretary of State in 2014.
But while he tried to steer conservatives into more liberal areas, she voted against introducing same-sex marriage.
Patel then broke with Cameron to campaign for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, along with Johnson.
Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, became Patel’s international development secretary when she took office in July 2016. It was short-lived.
May fired her in November 2017 after it was revealed that Patel had pursued her own freelance diplomacy while on a family vacation to Israel — including a meeting with then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — without notifying the State Department or Downing Street.
But when he took over from May in July 2019, Johnson brought Patel back to the Cabinet in an even senior role, responsible for the sprawling Home Office.
While some cabinet members have complained about allegations of parties breaking the lockdown in Downing Street, Patel is squarely behind Johnson.
Patel, who was interviewed by Sky News in January, said she “devotes all my time day in, day out” supporting the prime minister.
With a challenging few months ahead, she will hope her loyalty is repaid.