On Tuesday evening, Angela Rayner appeared on BBC Newsnight and was asked if Sir Gavin Williamson should have his knighthood removed and resign after the recent bullying allegations against the government minister. It comes hours after Sir Gavin published his resignation letter on Twitter, but said he refutes “the characterisation of these claims” and said leaving the Government was a “real sadness”.
The BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire said on the television programme: “If the bullying allegations are proven, as Sir Gavin Williamson denies he’s a bully, [and] says he’s stepped back in order to clear his name.
“[However,] if they are proven true, should his knighthood be removed? Should he resign as an MP?”
Angela Rayner replied: “Look, there’s no place for bullies in parliament or in the upper house in the house of lord either. I don’t think he should be holding a senior position, whether that’s in the lords or whether that’s as an MP.
“Bullying, sexual harassment, abuse and all those things, in any other workplace, would not be tolerated. We’ve got to set an example in parliament, and at the moment we’re not seeing that.”
Sir Gavin has been accused of sending abusive messages to fellow Conservative colleagues as well as bullying a civil servant while defence secretary.
The Sunday Times published text messages by Sir Gavin to the former Chief Whip Wendy Morton.
In the text messages, Sir Gavin appears to say complain that MPs not “favoured” by the former Prime Minister Liz Truss were being excluded from Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
He apparently accused Ms Morton of “rigging” the ticket system for the funeral and allegedly warned the former Chief Whip “not to push him about” and that “there was a price for everything.
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Anne Milton, a former deputy chief whip, told Channel 4 News that Sir Gavin’s behaviour has been “threatening” and “intimidating” in the workplace.
The Guardian has also reported claims by a senior civil servant that Sir Gavin bullied them and told them to “slit your throat”.
Downing Street has said it is seeking to establish facts about the reported comments to the civil servant, and Sir Gavid has also been reported to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, the bullying watchdog for MPs.
However, Jake Berry, the former Conservative Party Chair, has said he informed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the text message allegations the day before Sir Gavin was appointed as Cabinet Office minister.
A spokesperson for Downing Street has said Mr Sunak “knew there was a disagreement” but he did not know “the substance” of the text message until they were published by the media.
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Some politicians have been critical of the Prime Minister since the bullying allegations were published.
Angela Rayner wrote on Twitter this evening that: “Rishi Sunak appointed Gavin Williamson despite having been told of serious allegations about his conduct and continued to express full confidence in him right until the bitter end.
“It’s a damning reflection of the appalling judgement of this weak Prime Minister.”
The SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster Kirsten Oswald said: “Rishi Sunak promised integrity, professionalism and accountability at the heart of his Government – all of which has been trashed within weeks of taking office.”
She added: “As the Westminster chaos continues to unfurl, there can be no doubt that independence is the only way to escape this dysfunctional system for good.”