UK minister facing multiple bullying allegations quits, PM Sunak says ‘I understand’
In his resignation letter, UK cabinet minister Gavin Williamson said he was resigning to “comply fully” with an investigation into the bullying allegations raised against him.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday that he has accepted minister Gavin Williamson's resignation, adding that he understands why the decision was taken.
“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,” Sunak said in a letter to Williamson, which was published by the United Kingdom government.
This marks the first cabinet resignation under the leadership of Indian-origin premier of Britain.
In his resignation letter, Williamson said he was quitting to “comply fully” with a probe into allegations raised against him about bullying his colleagues when he served in previous roles.
Williamson's resignation and Sunak's acceptance of the same comes amid the PM facing pressure for the choice of his ministers since being elected as Britain's third premier in two months. Williamson was previously sacked as a defence minister and education minister by Sunak's predecessors. The current prime minister had appointed Williamson to a ministerial role in the cabinet only two weeks before.
The drama around Williamson gained fresh steam on Monday after The Guardian newspaper reported that Williamson had bullied a senior civil servant in the defence ministry and told them to “slit your throat”. He was the serving as the defence secretary under former PM Theresa May at the time.
Furthermore, Channel 4 News aired an interview with Williamson's ex-deputy on Tuesday night when he was chief whip. Anne Milton said his behaviour was “intimidating” and “threatening”, and that Williamson would use MPs' health matters as “leverage”.
Recounting an incident when Williamson had asked Milton to give a cheque to an MP who needed financial help, she said: “And he waved it under my nose and said, ‘Make sure when you give him this check, he knows I now own him’.”
She added that she did not think it was a “joke”.
Williamson had already been under the radar over a separate bullying claim from another Conservative MP, Wendy Morton. She served as a chief enforcer in former premier Liz Truss's 44-day government and had submitted a complaint over multiple expletive laden text messages Williamson had sent her after the demise of Queen Elizabeth II in September.
(With inputs from Reuters and Bloomberg)