No 10 backs Gavin Williamson as Rishi Sunak branded ‘weak’ in the face of bullying
KEIR Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of being ‘weak’ for not firing a minister accused of bullying, as new allegations have emerged about him.
The UK Labor leader said Sir Gavin Williamson was ‘clearly not suitable’ and the Prime Minister was only keeping him in the job to mask the cracks in his own party.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also said if Sir Gavin had been in his top team he would have sacked him.
However, Downing Street said Mr Sunak retained his faith in the Minister of State without Portfolio and believed he had “an important contribution to make” to the government.
It emerged last week that Mr Sunak had appointed Sir Gavin, a former Education Secretary and Chief Whip, to his Cabinet despite knowing he was the subject of a formal conduct complaint.
Wendy Morton, the chief whip under Liz Truss, complained to the Conservative Party on October 24, the day before Sir Gavin was appointed, and separately alerted the Cabinet Office ethics team.
The timing was confirmed by Sir Jake Berry, then chairman of the Conservative Party, who said he told the Prime Minister and his chief of staff the day before they joined Number 10.
The Sunday Times reported that Sir Gavin sent Ms Morton a WhatsApp message amid unfounded allegations that she excluded him and other Privy Councilors from the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.
He said she chose to ‘fuck us all over the place’ and her conduct was ‘absolutely disgusting’, adding ominously: ‘There is a price to be paid for everything’.
The Times today reported that a minister also claimed Sir Gavin tried to silence her using his private life when he was Chief Whip in 2016 and she was a backbench MP.
At the time she was highlighting an embarrassing issue for the Government, and Sir Gavin called her into his office and raised a ‘sensitive issue’ about her private life.
The MP interpreted it as an unspoken threat, although allies of Sir Gavin, who used to keep a tarantula on his desk, said it was done in a ‘pastoral’ capacity.
The Minister has now contacted the Conservative Party about this.
Sir Keir said: ‘It is so disappointing that we are once again having a discussion about the Prime Minister’s judgment, this time in relation to Gavin Williamson.
“He clearly has people around the Cabinet table who are not fit to be there.
It was because he was so weak and wanted to avoid an election within his own party.
“That’s why I think there’s such a strong case for a general election.”
Asked if he was calling for Sir Gavin’s dismissal, the Labor leader said: ‘I think the Prime Minister has people who are clearly not fit for duty around the Cabinet table.
“Gavin Williamson has a history of security breaches and leaks and so on.
“It’s clearly not suitable, but the focus here is really on the Prime Minister, to ask the question why did he put these people around the Cabinet, and the answer is because he did. made in a weak position because he didn’t have ‘I don’t want to have elections within his own party to become leader of his own party.
Speaking on Times Radio, Mr Ross said the messages were unacceptable.
Pressed on whether he would be part of his frontbench team for doing the same, he said: “Yeah, they wouldn’t be in my frontbench with the language that was used.
“But I understand what the Prime Minister is saying, there is an ongoing investigation.
“I don’t know all the details, but I’ve seen the messages…and I wouldn’t expect it from any of my colleagues at Holyrood.”
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip MP Wendy Chamberlain said: “A different prime minister, same old Tory bastard.
“If Rishi Sunak had any sense of public duty, he would fire Gaving Williamson now. In any other workplace, someone who behaved like him would have been rightly fired for gross misconduct.
“Instead, Williamson is freed from the hook by a Prime Minister happy to let his integrity be questioned on a daily basis.
“Every day Williamson remains in office is an insult to honest, hard-working people across the country.”
Downing Street today said Mr Sunak retains full faith in Sir Gavin, despite telling The Sun overnight that his messages to Ms Morton were ‘not acceptable or fair’.
Mr Sunak also said he did not see the messages until they appeared in the newspapers.
He said: “It was a difficult time for our party. . . but no matter what, people should always be treated with respect. I’m glad Gavin expressed his regret. An independent complaints process is underway. It is fair and reasonable that we let this end.
When asked if the Prime Minister has full confidence in the Cabinet Minister, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman this morning replied: “Yes”.
Insisting on why Sir Gavin is still in office if Mr Sunak considered the texts he sent to be unacceptable, he said: ‘Well, as you know, there is a process going on.
“I think, obviously, it’s led by the Conservative Party. So it’s not one for me.
“I think the Prime Minister said it was right to let this process take place and he welcomes that Gavin Williamson has expressed his regret over these comments, which, as you say, do not find acceptable. ”
The prime minister’s official spokesman said at the time that Mr Sunak “knew there was a disagreement”, but was unaware of the “substance” of the messages.
When asked why he had given Sir Gavin a government post, he replied: “Obviously he thinks he has an important contribution to make to government.”
When asked if the Prime Minister has a zero tolerance approach to bullying in government, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson replied: “Yes”.
He said he was ‘unaware’ whether the Prime Minister had spoken to Sir Gavin or Ms Morton about the matter.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said Sir Gavin was wrong to send the angry messages.
He told Sky News: “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, to send messages like that. I see they must have been sent in a moment of frustration.
“I think, generally, it’s better to write things that you won’t regret later.
“And especially with colleagues, writing things that are polite, even if you have a point of view to express, I think it’s not unreasonable.
“So I don’t think he was right to send them. The Prime Minister said the same thing. I know the party is going through a process that is watching them right now.
He later told LBC, “I think he must have been in a moment of frustration which I’m sure he deeply regrets. It’s totally inappropriate to send messages like this under any circumstances, frustration Or other.
“It’s absolutely correct that it has been reviewed, there is a process going on.”
He added: “There is no justification for writing anyone in these terms. Every once in a while I get angry emails that cross the line, you know, just like an MP – but they shouldn’t be sent and they certainly shouldn’t be sent by MPs.”
Sir Gavin said: Williamson said: ‘I am of course sorry that I was frustrated with the way my colleagues and I felt we were treated. I am happy to speak with Wendy and look forward to working positively with her in the future as I have in the past.