Sir Gavin Williamson has resigned from Government after facing a number of allegations about his conduct. He said the allegations were becoming a “distraction”. Sir Gavin is currently facing three claims of bullying after it was first revealed he sent expletive-laden text messages to a female colleague last week.
In his resignation letter, Sir Gavin said he “refutes the characterisation” of the claims made against him.
He said he has “decided to step back from Government” to allow him to “comply fully with the complaints process” and “clear my name of any wrongdoing”.
Sir Gavin added: “It is with real sadness that I tender my resignation, but I want to take this opportunity to offer my full and total support from the back benches.”
In his response, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – who has come under increasing criticism for his decision to appoint the MP to his cabinet – said: “I support your decision to step back and understand why you have taken it”.
Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said the saga is a “damning reflection of a weak Prime Minister.”
She added: “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.”
Sir Gavin is currently facing three separate inquiries into his behaviour, two with the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), and the third an internal Conservative party investigation. Two relate to an incident involving the former chief whip Wendy Morton, while the other relates to a complaint made by a Ministry of Defence official.
Downing Street said it is investigating a “serious” allegation that Sir Gavin told the MoD official to “slit your throat”.
Sir Gavin is accused of telling the official to “jump out of the window”, saying the MP had “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” them on a regular basis.
In a statement, the complainant said they had an “incredibly difficult period” working for Sir Gavin at the MoD and that the alleged bullying had taken “an extreme impact” on their mental health.
In an extraordinary interview with Channel 4, broadcast just hours prior to Mr Williamson’s resignation, former deputy chief whip Anne Milton, who used to work with Sir Gavin when he was chief whip, claimed the MP used “salacious gossip” as “leverage against MPs”.
She said there were a “few” incidents, where Sir Gavin would leverage “people’s sexual preferences” or other sensitive issues against them.
The former deputy chief whip said: “I got the impression that he loved salacious gossip and would use it as leverage against MPs if the need arose.”
“He loved all that. He would come into the office and say: ‘Guess who enjoys, you know, some form of sex or another’.
“I found it very distasteful apart from anything.”
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Ms Milton added: “On one occasion, we had an MP who’d got a few financial problems and some financial help was given.
“It wasn’t a great amount, but I do remember him asking me to give the MP in question the cheque and he waved it under my nose and said: ‘Make sure when you give him this cheque he knows that I now own him.’
“I’m sure if you ask Gavin Williamson about this, he’ll say it was a joke. I don’t think it was a joke.
“It was the seriousness with which he said it. And I think the bottom line is, if instances accord with your overall experience of somebody, then you believe them.”
She said he behaved in an “unethical and immoral” way as chief whip, describing his behaviour as “threatening” and “intimidating”.
The raft of allegations emerged after text messages sent by Sir Gavin to chief whip Wendy Morton were made public last week.
The cabinet minister, who was a backbencher at the time, accused Ms Morton of excluding him from the Queen’s funeral in a series of text messages laden with expletives.