Sir Gavin Williamson faces inquiry over 'messages' sent to Wendy Morton 'in the heat of the moment'
ITV News' Harry Horton reports on the allegations made against Sir Gavin Williamson
Cabinet Office minister and South Staffordshire MP Sir Gavin Williamson is facing an investigation over a series of abusive and threatening messages reportedly sent to the then Tory chief whip complaining he had been excluded from the Queen’s funeral.
Sir Gavin, who was a backbencher at the time, accused Wendy Morton of using the death of the monarch to “punish” senior MPs who were out of favour with Liz Truss’s government.
The exchange of messages, obtained by The Sunday Times, concluded with him saying: “Well let’s see how many more times you **** us all over. There is a price for everything.”
The paper said the then party chairman, Sir Jake Berry, informed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak the day before he entered No 10 that Ms Morton had submitted a formal complaint to the party about Sir Gavin’s conduct.
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said on Sunday that Sir Gavin regretted sending the messages to Ms Morton at what had been a “difficult time” for the Conservative Party following the election of Ms Truss as leader.
“These were sent in the heat of the moment expressing frustration. It was a difficult time for the party. He now accepts that he shouldn’t have done it and he regrets doing so,” Mr Dowden said.
“Thankfully we are in a better place now as a party.”
'There's no suggestion that Sir Gavin Williamson is about to be sacked, but certainly questions for the prime minister this week'
Both Sir Jake and Ms Morton lost their jobs in a recent reshuffle, while Sir Gavin – a former chief whip and a supporter of Mr Sunak – returned to government.
In the messages, Sir Gavin complained it was “very poor” that privy councillors – senior politicians who formally advise the monarch – who “aren’t favoured” have been excluded from the funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Ms Morton repeatedly insisted that his claims were unfounded and that the government had been allocated an “extremely limited” number of tickets, most of which went to members of the Cabinet.
Mr Williamson, a minister of state without portfolio, retorted: “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 **** 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 **** us all over. There is a price for everything.”
Sir Jake told the paper that he was informed by the Conservative Party chief executive on October 24 that a complaint had been made against Sir Gavin regarding allegations of “bullying and intimidation of parliamentary colleagues”.
“In compliance with protocol, in my capacity as party chairman, I informed both the new Prime Minister and his incoming chief of staff about the complaint on the same day,” he said.
According to The Sunday Times, Mr Sunak did not recall the “specifics” of their conversation.
Sir Gavin was made a privy councillor and awarded a knighthood by Boris Johnson when he was prime minister earlier this year.
He is, however, viewed with suspicion by many Tory MPs because of his reputation as a plotter.
He was sacked first 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-19 A-levels debacle.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Sunak’s decision to bring Sir Gavin back into government called his judgment into question.
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“Gavin Williamson was sacked from Cabinet twice, yet despite risking national security, he’s back at the heart of government,” she said.
“Rishi Sunak’s pledge to restore integrity, professionalism and accountability has been exposed as nothing more than hollow words. Far from stopping the rot in Downing Street, he’s letting it fester.”
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 told The Sunday Times: “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.”