Serial Tory failure Gavin Williamson has failed again – to clear his name of bullying fellow Tory Wendy Morton.
He quit as Minister Without Portfolio last year after sending expletive-laden texts to former Tory chief whip Wendy Morton, accusing her of excluding some MPs from the late Queen’s funeral last September.
Ms Morton lodged a complaint with Parliament in November and Williamson quit his government position in order to clear his name – but the inquiry found against him and he was ordered to deliver his apology in a speech in the House of Commons on Monday (September 4).
He said he accepted he had used “intemperate and inappropriate language,” and he accepted “the decision that my conduct constituted a breach” of the policy.
“I will do my utmost to ensure this does not happen again,” he added.
Opposition parties have questioned why Mr Sunak appointed Sir Gavin as a minister in October last year, after being told about Ms Morton’s complaint – and it is a good question, especially as Williamson’s apology comes at the same time as Chris Pincher’s suspension.
Pincher had to resign as a Tory whip after he admitted groping two men. It subsequently transpired that then-prime minister Boris Johnson had promoted him to the Whips’ office, despite having been informed of previous transgressions by the same MP.
Bullying is not the same as sexual offences – but the fault of the Tory leader in both cases is the same; giving a job to an MP whose integrity was, at the very least, questionable (and proved to be nonexistant).
Williamson sent the abusive texts to Ms Morton on September 13, 2022, complaining that he and other colleagues had been excluded from the Queen’s funeral for political reasons. Here are the most offending messages:
Ms Morton complained to the Conservative Party about his conduct on October 24. He refused to apologise.
Ex-Conservative Party Chair Jake Berry said he told Rishi Sunak of the complaint on the day it was made. Sunak subsequently made Williamson a Cabinet minister.
Morton handed Williamson’s messages to the Conservative Party on October 26, two days after she made her complaint – but Sunak insisted that he did not see them until they were published in The Sunday Times on November 6.
Do you believe that?
An official investigation into Williamson’s words to Ms Morton was launched on November 8 – but, by then, other allegations had been made against him.
According to the BBC,
Sir Gavin told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window” when he was defence secretary.
An unnamed official told the Guardian Sir Gavin, who is now a Cabinet Office minister in Rishi Sunak’s government, “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” them.
The official said they raised concerns to the Ministry of Defence’s human resources department but made no formal complaint.
Williamson did not deny using the language mentioned in the accusation.
But he issued a statement: “I strongly reject this allegation and have enjoyed good working relationships with the many brilliant officials I have worked with across government.
“No specific allegations have ever been brought to my attention.”
Williamson resigned in order to fight Ms Morton’s claims against him on November 8. He also said he did not want to become a distraction from the work of Sunak’s government.
It was the third time the serial quitter had resigned a government role.
Williamson’s previous Cabinet role ended when he was sacked as Education Secretary in September 2021.
At the time, I wrote the following:
England’s education system is (momentarily) stronger with the announcement that Gavin Williamson has been sacked from his post as the minister in charge, as part of a Cabinet reshuffle by Boris Johnson.
His two-year tenure stands as testament to the fact that having no Education Secretary is better than having him in the role.
Incompetent Williamson’s failures are fast becoming the stuff of legend, with the headline disasters well-known to all of us:
In 2020, when A-level students could not take their exams because of Covid-19, he used a algorithm to allocate marks – that was rigged to make it seem that privately-educated pupils were more intelligent than the riff-raff from the state system that he ran.
He later tried to force disadvantaged, black and minority ethnic children in England to take exams when other kids didn’t have to, claiming that they respond better to examination conditions. It seemed clear racism – an attempt to put these children down with duff results.
He made it clear that the government expected all schools to open as normal in January this year – then closed them after just one day because prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a new lockdown and he was unaware of it.
He decided to foist Latin as a subject onto state school pupils, rather than anything useful. At the time I wrote: “Having killed the economy with Brexit and enormous numbers of the population with Covid-19, the Tories now want us all to learn a dead language.”
He scrapped dozens of legal rights for children.
He also wanted a clampdown on indiscipline in schools after the return from Covid-19 lockdown – but provided no evidence whatsoever to support his wild claim that our children had gone feral.
Before Boris Johnson gave him the bullet, it was suggested that Williamson would blame school pupils and parents if Covid-19 infections spike after the start of the school term.
Prior to that, he was Defence Secretary under Theresa May – but was sacked from that job too.
In May 2019, I wrote:
Theresa May has sacked Gavin Williamson as Defence Secretary, saying she has “lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of defence secretary and as a member of her cabinet”.
It appears he is to take responsibility for an embarrassing leak from the National Security Council, stating that Huawei is to take a contract to help provide the UK’s 5G network, despite concerns over spyware funnelling information to the Chinese government.
But was he really to blame?
Mr Williamson himself is on the record as swearing on his children’s life that he had nothing to do with the leak.
But it seems an inquiry run by Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill has found that he was responsible for the leak, which has angered the United States government, which has banned Huawei from government networks and pressurised the UK to do the same.
Alternatively, some have suggested that the US is simply protecting its interests, saying Huawei provides better service than American firms.
According to The Independent, Mr Williamson is said to believe his firing was “politically motivated”.
It has also been alleged that Williamson was knighted on the wishes of Boris Johnson because he knew of connections between Johnson and Russia that the former prime minister wanted to keep quiet.
So there are certainly a lot of claims about Williamson. Did he ever clear up those previous allegations? Not as far as This Writer is aware.
Has he cleared up the other allegations of bullying? Not as far as This Writer is aware.
It is possible that some – especially among the Conservative Party – will want to close the book on Gavin Williamson’s alleged wrongdoing now.
I would suggest that it would be premature to do so. Let’s have all the answers first.