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8 November 2022

Gavin Williamson resigns as Cabinet Office minister over abusive messages

The former education secretary has left the cabinet after allegedly telling a defence official to “slit your throat”.

By Zoë Grünewald

Gavin Williamson has resigned from the cabinet after allegations of bullying and intimidation against colleagues and civil servants destroyed his political comeback. Only 14 days have passed since Rishi Sunak appointed him minister without portfolio in his first reshuffle.

Williamson, who was sacked as defence secretary in 2019 by Theresa May for leaking confidential information, and as education secretary in 2021 by Boris Johnson, sent expletive-laden WhatsApp messages to former Conservative chief whip Wendy Morton for not securing him a place at the Queen’s funeral. One of the texts read: “Well let’s see how many more times you fuck us all over. There is a price for everything.”

Morton made an official complaint against Williamson and handed her messages over to Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) back in late October, and they were subsequently published in the Sunday Times.

Further allegations of bullying and threatening behaviour by Williamson during his time as defence secretary subsequently emerged – he reportedly told a defence official to “jump out of a window” and “slit your throat”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared to defend Williamson on Monday, stating that “an independent complaints process” was under way and that it would be “right to let that process conclude” before making any judgements.

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Sunak’s response was heavily criticised by the opposition, with Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds saying the allegations “speak to the toxic culture at the top of the Conservative Party”, and deputy Liberal Democrat leader Daisy Cooper commenting that “if the Prime Minister was serious about restoring integrity he would sack Gavin Williamson”.

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Williamson has since been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) which investigates accusations of bullying and harassment in parliament.

[See also: PMQs: the Gavin Williamson scandal makes Rishi Sunak look weak]

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