Sir Gavin Williamson resigns from government amid bullying allegations

Sir Gavin Williamson has left the government. For the third time, if you include the two occasions he was sacked, which surely must be something of a record. ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports

Sir Gavin Williamson has quit his role as a cabinet minister amid bullying allegations.

In his resignation letter Sir Gavin "refuted" the allegations that had been made against him and stated that he would "comply fully" with the investigation process.

The South Staffordshire MP stated the allegations against him were “becoming a distraction for the good work this government is doing”.

The decision to quit follows allegations he sent expletive-laden messages to former chief whip Wendy 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.

“I am complying with this process and I have apologised to the recipient for those messages," the resignation letter read.

The letter continued: “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."

After announcing his departure from government, he said he would not be taking severance pay. “To dispel any speculation, I want to make it clear that I will not be taking any severance,” he said. “This is taxpayers’ money and it should go instead toward the government‘s priorities like reducing the NHS’s waiting lists.”

His clarification comes amid reports he could be entitled to almost £17,000 in severance pay after two weeks in government.

The flurry of accusations against Sir Gavin had triggered a series of investigations by the Tory party, the Commons bullying watchdog and an informal fact-finding exercise by No 10.His resignation came just hours after Downing Street insisted Mr Sunak still had full confidence in the minister.

Sir Gavin (far left) pictured at a Cabinet meeting chaired by PM Rishi Sunak. Credit: PA

Pressure on Sir Gavin – and questions over Mr Sunak’s judgment – began amid reports he sent a series of abusive and threatening messages to Ms Morton, and reports the prime minister was informed of a complaint against him when he appointed his Cabinet.

Another complaint to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) has reportedly been made by a former senior official who worked with Sir Gavin when he was at the Ministry of Defence. He is alleged to have told the official to “slit your throat” and on a separate occasion told them to “jump out of the window”, according to a Guardian report.

On Tuesday night, former deputy chief whip Anne Milton alleged Sir Gavin used intimidatory and threatening tactics while he was chief whip.

She accused him of seeking to use an MP’s financial situation as leverage against them and sending an expletive-laden email about a female civil servant.

Sir Gavin, 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.

Mr Sunak accepted the Sir Gavin’s resignation stating: “It is with great sadness that I accept your resignation. I know your commitment to successive Conservative governments and the party over the years has been unwavering.

“I support your decision to step back and understand why you have taken it.

“I would like to thank you for your personal support and loyalty. I know you will continue to represent your constituents with diligence and care.

“I also want to express my gratitude for the work you have done for this Government.”

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 Mr Johnson as education secretary over the Covid-19 A-levels debacle. However, he was regarded as a key figure in Mr Sunak’s campaign over the summer to become party leader and his departure will be embarrassing for the prime minister. Mr Sunak will face MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday and Sir Gavin’s decision to resign could help him avoid some of the inevitable attacks coming his way.

Sir Gavin pictured outside No 10. Credit: PA

But deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said it is a "damning reflection of a weak prime minister", adding that his appointment was "another example of Rishi Sunak’s poor judgement and weak leadership.”

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

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This should be the third and final time Gavin Williamson is forced out of the Cabinet."

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