Rishi Sunak retains 'full confidence' in Gavin Williamson despite 'abusive messages'

Rishi Sunak (right) still retains his full confidence in Sir Gavin Williamson (left) after the emergence of abusive texts Credit: PA Images

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the expletive-laden text messages sent by Sir Gavin Williamson to a colleague are "not acceptable or right", Downing Street has confirmed.

His comments come as Mr Sunak is under fire for bringing the South Staffordshire MP back into the Government - even though he had been warned the former education secretary was under investigation for allegedly bullying Wendy Morton.

However, the PM has said he retains full confidence in Sir Gavin, despite the emergence of threatening and abusive texts the Cabinet Office minister sent to the former chief whip.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Sir Gavin is "clearly not suitable" for the job, and claimed Mr Sunak was "weak" to appoint him.

In a series of angry texts, Sir Gavin angrily accused Ms Morton of seeking to "punish" MPs like him who were out of favour with then-premier Liz Truss by excluding them from the Queen’s funeral.

Mr Sunak has said the messages were not "not acceptable or right", while Cabinet minister Grant Shapps earlier echoed this sentiment – describing the correspondence as "completely inappropriate".

But the Prime Minister has sought to clarify that while he was aware of a "disagreement", he did not know the details of the exchange at the time he brought Sir Gavin back into Government.

Asked if Mr Sunak has full confidence in the Cabinet Office minister, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: "Yes."

Rishi Sunak appointed Sir Gavin Williamson despite a warning that he was under investigation Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Pressed on why the Prime Minister gave Sir Gavin a job, Mr Sunak’s spokesman added: "Obviously he thinks he has an important contribution to make to Government."

Sir Keir told broadcasters during a visit to Imperial College London: "It is so disappointing that yet again, we’re having a discussion about the Prime Minister’s judgment, this time in relation to Gavin Williamson.

"He’s clearly got people around the Cabinet table who are not fit to be there.

"That is because he was so weak and wanted to avoid an election within his own party."

Sir Keir adds: "I think the only way out of this, because these debates are going to go on because of the weak position the Prime Minister is in, I think we should say to the public, they should have a choice: do you want to carry on with this chaos, or do you want the stability of a Labour government?

"That’s why I think there is such a powerful case for a general election."

Asked if he was calling on Sir Gavin to be sacked, Sir Keir said: "I think that the Prime Minister has got people who are clearly not fit for the job around the Cabinet table."

On whether Mr Sunak has spoken with either Sir Gavin or Ms Morton since the matter came to light, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said he was "not aware" of any talks, but would not normally get into details of private conversations.

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