08 November 2022

Timeline: Williamson quits Sunak’s Cabinet after a fortnight

08 November 2022

Sir Gavin Williamson has quit Rishi Sunak’s top ministerial team after allegations about his conduct towards colleagues and officials during a controversial Commons career.

Here is how his resignation unfolded:

– October 25: Rishi Sunak becomes Prime Minister and Sir Gavin, who had been a key ally during his campaign for the leadership, returns to the top table as minister without portfolio – despite having been sacked from two previous Cabinet roles under Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

– November 5: The Sunday Times publishes messages sent by Sir Gavin to then chief whip Wendy Morton complaining that he was not invited to the Queen’s funeral, claiming she was using the death of the monarch to “punish” senior MPs who were out of favour with Liz Truss’s government.

The exchange of messages concluded with him saying: “Well let’s see how many more times you f*** us all over. There is a price for everything.”

The paper said the then party chairman, Sir Jake Berry, informed Mr Sunak the day before he entered No 10 that Ms Morton had submitted a formal complaint to the party about Sir Gavin’s conduct.

– November 6: Mr Sunak said the messages sent to Ms Morton were “not acceptable or right” and insisted he had not seen them before the Sunday Times published them. But he acknowledged he was “aware there was a disagreement between him and the former chief whip”.

– November 7: Downing Street says Mr Sunak still has full confidence in Sir Gavin.

But the Guardian later publishes claims he told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” in what they claimed was a bullying campaign while he was defence secretary.

The former Ministry of Defence (MoD) official told the newspaper Sir Gavin made the remarks in front of colleagues in a meeting, and on another occasion told them to “jump out of the window”.

– November 8: The number of investigations into Sir Gavin’s conduct grows, with Ms Morton’s case and the former official’s referred to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. No 10 also launched an informal fact-finding exercise.

At shortly after 6pm, Channel 4 News published an interview with former deputy chief whip Anne Milton, who claimed that Sir Gavin’s approach when he was chief whip was “unethical and immoral”.

Sir Gavin and Mr Sunak met on Tuesday evening and the Cabinet Office minister decided to resign, releasing his letter at shortly after 8pm claiming the allegations were becoming a distraction and he needed to step down to clear his name.

Mr Sunak said he was accepting the resignation with “great sadness” and thanked Sir Gavin for his “personal support and loyalty”.

After just a fortnight in the Sunak administration, the Prime Minister thanked Sir Gavin for “the work you have done for this Government”.

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