Gavin Williamson quits as Cabinet Office minister amid bullying allegations

8 November 2022, 20:19 | Updated: 8 November 2022, 21:06

Gavin Williamson has quit his government role
Gavin Williamson has quit his government role. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Gavin Williamson has resigned from his Government role as Cabinet Office minister following bullying allegations.

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He said he had made the decision "to comply fully with the complaints process", adding that allegations against him were "becoming a distraction for the good work this Government is doing".

It 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.

Sir Gavin told Rishi Sunak: "As you know, there is an ongoing complaints process concerning text messages I sent to a colleague.

"I am complying with this process and I have apologised to the recipient for those messages.

"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."

Read more: PM still stands by under-fire Gavin Williamson despite claims he told civil servant to 'slit their throat'

Read more: Gavin Williamson investigated over expletive-filled messages after he wasn’t invited to the Queen’s funeral

In response to the letter, Mr Sunak thanked Sir Gavin for his "personal support and loyalty".

"Thank you for your resignation letter.

"It is with great sadness that I accept you 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."

Minister: No justification for Gavin Williamson's alleged texts

It comes despite the Prime Minister continuing to show his support for Sir Gavin amid the growing number of bullying claims.

Downing Street on Tuesday said that Mr Sunak still has confidence in his ally.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Obviously, there have been further allegations reported this morning.

"Those are serious allegations that have come in.

"It's true that no formal complaint has been made."

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 No10.

Mr Williamson allegedly told a senior civil servant to "slit your throat" in what they claimed was a bullying campaign while he was defence secretary.

They earlier made a formal complaint against the Cabinet Office minister.

Andrew Marr asks Kit Malthouse about Gavin Williamson allegations

He was also under investigation over his messages to Ms Morton.

Sir Gavin, who was a backbencher at the time, accused Wendy Morton of using the death of the Queen 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 f*** us all over. There is a price for everything."

Sir Gavin pictured on Monday.
Sir Gavin pictured on Monday. Picture: Alamy

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "This is a damning reflection of a weak Prime Minister.

"Rishi Sunak appointed Gavin Williamson with full knowledge of serious allegations about his conduct and repeatedly expressed confidence in him.

"This is yet another example of Rishi Sunak's poor judgment and weak leadership. It is clear that he is trapped by the grubby backroom deals he made to dodge a vote, and is incapable of putting country before party.

"As families struggle during a cost-of-living crisis made in Downing Street, yet another Tory Government has descended into chaos."