Why was Gavin Williamson given a knighthood? Cabinet Minister resigns after formal complaint

Gavin Williamson has quit for messages reportedly sent to former chief whip Wendy Morton (UK Government)
Gavin Williamson has quit for messages reportedly sent to former chief whip Wendy Morton (UK Government)

Sir Gavin Williamson has resigned from Government after mounting allegations of bullying, saying to stay would be a “distraction”.

An ex-civil servant has claimed Sir Gavin allegedly told them to “slit your throat”. The allegations included claims that Sir Gavin, who was the defence secretary at the time, told the official on another occasion to “jump out of the window”.

The Ministry of Defence official claimed his behaviour amounted to a sustained campaign of bullying.

The official, who later left government, said Sir Gavin “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” them on a regular basis.

They reported the incidents informally to human resources, but decided against making a formal complaint at the time.

Sir Gavin said: “I strongly reject this allegation and have enjoyed good working relationships with the many brilliant officials I have worked with across government.

The news comes to light after Chief Whip Wendy Morton also filed a complaint, after she allegedly received threatening text messages from Sir Gavin, that were published by The Times on Sunday (November 6). The situation is currently under investigation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the abusive messages were “not acceptable or right” as he insisted he had been aware of a “disagreement” but not the details of the exchange.

Despite stating that he "refutes the characterisation of these charges," Sir Gavin claimed in his resignation letter that the allegations were “becoming a distraction for the outstanding work this government is doing for the British people”.

But who is Sir Gavin Williamson, what did he say, and why was he honoured?

Who is Sir Gavin Williamson?

Sir Gavin Williamson is a Cabinet minister, having been appointed minister without portfolio on October 25, following Mr Sunak’s appointment as prime minister.

He has previously worked as secretary of State for Education, Secretary of State for Defence, and Chief Whip.

Sir Gavin was elected Conservative MP for South Staffordshire in May 2010.

Born in Scarborough, he attended Raincliffe Comprehensive School and Scarborough Sixth Form College, before receiving a Bachelor of Science from the University of Bradford.

Sir Gavin Williamson allegedly sent abusive messages to the former chief whip (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Sir Gavin Williamson allegedly sent abusive messages to the former chief whip (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He began a career in manufacturing before becoming the managing director of an architectural design firm.

Sir Gavin first entered politics in 2001, as a county councillor, and later became deputy chairman of Staffordshire area Conservatives, Chairman of Stoke on Trent Conservative Association, and vice chairman of Derbyshire Dales Conservative Association.

Why was Gavin Williamson given a knighthood?

Gavin Williamson was awarded a knighthood by former prime minister Boris Johnson in March 2022.

A Downing Street statement said: “The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knighthood be conferred upon The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP.”

However, when questioned on the reasons, Downing Street was unable to provide details of the citation.

However, according to inews, “The honour was bestowed upon the MP – who helped run Mr Johnson’s successful 2019 campaign to succeed Theresa May as Tory leader – on the basis of his political and public service, it was understood.”

Sir Gavin received his knighthood six months after being sacked as education secretary by Mr Johnson, and after being previously dismissed as defence secretary following an inquiry into a leak from the National Security Council.

His knighthood was widely criticised, as it was considered that Sir Gavin was responsible for the school exams fiasco during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said the knighthood showed “utter contempt for the challenges children and education staff have faced during the pandemic”.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats called the knighthood “an insult to every child, parent, and teacher who struggled through Covid against the odds”.

What did Gavin Williamson say to Wendy Morton?

The Cabinet Minister sent text messages complaining about allegedly being excluded from the Queen’s funeral.

He reportedly claimed that MPs who were not favoured by former prime minister Liz Truss were being excluded.

According to the Times, Sir Gavin told Ms Morton, “there is a price for everything” and said her conduct was “absolutely disgusting”. He also said that she had chosen to “f*** us all over”.

Sir Gavin is quoted in the Sunday Times as saying: “I of course regret getting frustrated about the way colleagues and I felt we were being treated.

“I am happy to speak with Wendy and I hope to work positively with her in the future as I have in the past.”