Rishi Sunak believes Sir Gavin Williamson’s foul-mouthed texts to a Tory colleague are “unacceptable”, No 10 has said. Sir Gavin sent a series of messages in September to the then chief whip Wendy Morton, who has lodged a formal complaint, fuming that he had not been invited to the late Queen’s funeral.
Downing Street confirmed the Prime Minister knew about a complaint against Sir Gavin, who is being investigated by Tory HQ, before bringing him in to his Cabinet.
But No 10 said Mr Sunak had not seen the expletive-ridden messages, the BBC reports.
It comes as the PM is under fire for bringing Sir Gavin back into the Government.
Former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry said he informed Mr Sunak on October 24 – the day before he took office – that Ms Morton had made a formal complaint over the texts.
The Telegraph reports that Mr Sunak was urged to look into the complaint fully before appointing Sir Gavin to his Cabinet.
A source told the newspaper: “The PM was told about it and advised that he should not appoint Williamson without checking the complaint.
“The formal complaint came in later that day. Williamson was appointed the following day. He may not have seen [the messages] but the fact that he chose not to is on him.”
In an exchange of messages on September 13, the Cabinet Office Minister – who was a backbencher at the time – accused the then chief whip of using the death of the late monarch to “punish” senior MPs who were out of favour with Liz Truss’s administration.
Sir Gavin complained that it was “very poor” that privy councillors – senior politicians who formally advise the monarch – who “aren’t favoured” have been excluded from the state funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 19.
Ms Morton repeatedly denied his claims and insisted that the Government had been allocated an “extremely limited” number of tickets, most of which went to members of the Cabinet.
In the messages, obtained by The Sunday Times, Mr Williamson said: “Well certainly looks it which think is very s*** and perception becomes reality. Also don’t forget I know how this works so don’t puss (sic) me about.
“It’s very clear how you are going to treat a number of us which is very stupid and you are showing f*** all interest in pulling things together.
“Also this shows exactly how you have rigged it is is (sic) disgusting you are using her death to punish people who are just supportive, absolutely disgusting.
“Well let’s see how many more times you f*** us all over. There is a price for everything.”
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden – one of Mr Sunak’s closest allies – today confirmed the Prime Minister had been aware there had been a complaint made against Sir Gavin but said he had not known the details of the exchange.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “As you have seen from the former chairman Jake Berry, he says that he highlighted that to the Prime Minister.
“But in terms of the specific allegations, the specific exchange, the Prime Minister wasn’t aware of it until last night.”
In Mr Sunak’s reshuffle, Ms Morton and Sir Jake lost their jobs while Sir Gavin was made Cabinet Office Minister.
His appointment sparked controversy as he is viewed with suspicion in Westminster because of his reputation as a plotter.
He was previously sacked by Theresa May as defence secretary for leaking details of a National Security Council meeting and then by Mr Johnson as education secretary over the Covid A-levels debacle.
A Conservative Party spokesman: “The Conservative Party has a robust complaints process in place.
“This process is rightly a confidential one, so that complainants can come forward in confidence.”
Sir Gavin said: “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.”