UK's Sunak Under Pressure As Minister Quits Following Bullying Allegation

Authored by Lily Zhou via The Epoch Times,

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faced pressure in Parliament on Wednesday after Cabinet minister Sir Gavin Williamson was forced to quit over allegations of abusive behaviour towards colleagues.

UK's Sunak Under Pressure As Minister Quits Following Bullying Allegation

Sunak defended giving Williamson a seat at the Cabinet table, saying he was not aware of “any of the specific concerns” about Williamson’s past conduct.

Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Sunak of hiding behind bullies because he’s “too weak” to take them on, saying Sunak gave Williamson a job “precisely” because he’s a bully.

Williamson, who was appointed the Minister without Portfolio two weeks ago, resigned on Tuesday saying the allegations had “become a distraction” from the government’s “good work.”

He also said he refutes “the characterisation of these claims” and that he will comply with the parliamentary investigation process and clear his name.

In a separate Twitter post, Williamson said he will not take severance payment.

Britain’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson speaks during a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on Feb. 24, 2021.
Britain’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson speaks during a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on Feb. 24, 2021. (John Sibley/ Pool/via Getty Images)

Allegations against the former minister first emerged on Saturday when The Sunday Times reported that he had sent expletive-laden messages to former Conservative Party Chief Whip Wendy Morton.

Williamson, who spearheaded Rishi Sunak’s failed bid to become the prime minister during the summer, accused Morton of punishing rivals by excluding them from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, according to The Times.

The report also said former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry said he had told Sunak that Morton was submitting a complaint against Williamson on Oct. 24, the day before Sunak became the prime minister and gave Williamson a seat at the Cabinet table.

The Independent reported on Tuesday that Morton also submitted a complaint to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

The Guardian on Monday said Williamson was abusive to civil servants when he was the Defence Secretary, telling them to “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window” on separate occasions, citing an unnamed former senior official from the Ministry of Defence.

Williamson told the publication that he strongly rejects the allegation and had enjoyed “good working relationships” with officials during his previous cabinet jobs, adding, “No specific allegations have ever been brought to my attention.”

Anne Milton, who was the deputy chief whip when Williamson was the chief whip, on Tuesday told Channel 4 News that he would use “salacious gossip” as “leverage against MPs if the need arose.”

Williamson announced his resignation on Twitter on Tuesday night, posting his resignation letter that said he refutes “the characterisation of these claims” but recognises they are “becoming a distraction” from the government’s “good work.”

“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,” he wrote.

Williamson also said he’s complying with the bullying watchdog’s complaint process.

Facing Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sunak told MPs that Williamson’s alleged behaviour was “unacceptable” and that his resignation was “absolutely right.”

Sunak said he didn’t know about “any of the specific concerns relating to his conduct as Secretary of State or chief whip, which date back some years.”

“I believe that people in public life should treat others with consideration and respect. And those are the principles that this government will stand by,” he said.

Asked if he regrets appointing Williamson, Sunak said he regrets “appointing someone who has had to resign in these circumstances” and that it’s “absolutely right” that “there is an investigation to look into these matters properly.”

“I said my government will be characterized by integrity, professionalism, and accountability, and it will,” the prime minister added, referring to his first speech on the job.

Sunak resigned as the chancellor of Boris Johnson’s government in July after the former prime minister admitted it was a “mistake” to keep Chris Pincher in government despite sexual misconduct allegations against him, having previously denied knowledge of specific allegations.

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