Opponents have hit out after Sir Gavin Williamson allegedly told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” in what they claimed was a bullying campaign while he was defence secretary.
The Cabinet Office minister said he “strongly” rejects the allegation and insisted he has “enjoyed good working relationships” with officials – however Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure over his decision to bring his ally back into Government after The Guardian reported fresh incendiary claims about his conduct.
Speaking on the matter, the shadow home secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He doesn’t deny using the language. The language is horrible and you can’t imagine people being treated like that at work.
“Gavin Williamson was reappointed to the Cabinet even when Rishi Sunak knew there was a new complaint in against him. He has admitted that the language, even in the previous complaint was unacceptable.
“Bear in mind he has also appointed him to the Cabinet Office which supports the National Security Council, even though Gavin Williamson was previously sacked by Theresa May for leaking from the National Security Council.
“We have also go this other case where Rishi Sunak reappointed Suella Braverman just six days after she was effectively sacked for breaching the ministerial code and security lapses, and where further information and allegations has also come to light since then of security lapses and the leak investigation as well.
“You have got this lack of proper standards, a lack of ethics. We have still not got an ethics advisor appointed and (the Tories are) also not taking security issues seriously.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said it would be “utterly, utterly unacceptable” if Sir Gavin Williamson told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window”.
Mr Stride told Sky News: “If that is the case, that is utterly, utterly unacceptable, but at the moment it is in the realm of media speculation” adding he served in the Whips’ Office under Sir Gavin, and saw him as someone with “this sort of aura or mystique around him”.
“There was always this great aura of… do you remember Cronus, the spider, the tarantula etc? And the reality with Cronus is he was much touted but he never actually was released to bite anybody.
“So that was how I always saw Gavin – as somebody who had this sort of aura or mystique around him, but the reality was he just generally got on with his job.”
Asked about a separate allegation concerning the minister’s past behaviour towards a senior civil servant, Mr Stride added “There is an independent inquiry, as you know, going on around another… alleged incident between himself and the then-chief whip Wendy Morton.
“I think the important thing we do now is not to start intervening… and opining on who’s right and wrong or what may or may not have happened, but to wait for the results of that investigation.”