Gavin Williamson Quits Over Bullying Allegations

Gavin Williamson arriving for the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. (Photo: Jacob King via PA Wire/PA Images)
Gavin Williamson arriving for the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. (Photo: Jacob King via PA Wire/PA Images)

Gavin Williamson arriving for the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. (Photo: Jacob King via PA Wire/PA Images)

Gavin Williamson has resigned from Rishi Sunak’s cabinet amid a series of bullying allegations against him, saying he was “becoming a distraction for the good work this government is doing”.

Williamson, who was promoted to Cabinet Office minister when Sunak became prime minister, was under renewed pressure following reports in The Guardian that he told a ministry of defence official to “slit your throat”.

The Tory party and parliament’s bullying watchdog are also looking into allegations made by former chief whip Wendy Morton.

Williamson was previously sacked as defence secretary for leaking from the National Security Council, and fired as education secretary over A-level exam chaos.

His resignation came just hours after Downing Street insisted Sunak still had full confidence in the minister.

In his resignation letter, Williamson told Sunak: “As you know, there is an ongoing complaints process concerning text messages I sent to a colleague.

“I am complying with this process and I have apologised to the recipient for those messages.

“Since then, there have been other allegations made about my past conduct. I refute the characterisation of these claims, but I recognise these are becoming a distraction for the good work this government is doing for the British people.

“I have therefore decided to step back from government so that I can comply fully with the complaints process that is underway and clear my name of any wrongdoing.”

The decision to quit follows allegations he sent expletive-laden messages to Morton complaining about being refused an invitation to the Queen’s funeral, claims he bullied a former official at the ministry of defence and an accusation of “unethical and immoral” behaviour while he was chief whip.

In his response, Sunak said he was accepting the resignation “with great sadness”, but “I support your decision to step back and understand why you have done it”.

He told Williamson “I would like to thank you for your personal support and loyalty” and expressed his “gratitude for the work you have done for this government”.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said: “This is a damning reflection of a weak prime minister. Rishi Sunak appointed Gavin Williamson with full knowledge of serious allegations about his conduct and repeatedly expressed confidence in him.

“This is yet another example of Rishi Sunak’s poor judgement and weak leadership. It is clear that he is trapped by the grubby backroom deals he made to dodge a vote, and is incapable of putting country before party.

“As families struggle during a cost of living crisis made in Downing Street, yet another Tory government has descended into chaos.”

Williamson, who was knighted after being nominated for the honour by Boris Johnson earlier this year, is a divisive figure at Westminster, where he is viewed with suspicion by many Tory MPs because of his reputation as an inveterate plotter.

He was sacked first by former PM Theresa May as defence secretary in 2019 for leaking details of a National Security Council meeting, and then by Johnson as education secretary over the Covid-19 A-levels debacle.

However, he was regarded as a key figure in Sunak’s campaign over the summer to become party leader and his departure will be embarrassing for the prime minister.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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