British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has suffered his first ministerial resignation, just two weeks to the day since the new leader took office and made the appointment.
Cabinet Office minister Gavin Williamson said he was stepping down to “comply fully” with an investigation into whether he had bullied colleagues while in previous roles.
The Sunday Times and other newspapers have reported that Williamson had treated government officials aggressively and sent expletive-laden messages to colleagues.
According to the Guardian, there were claims that he told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” when he was defence secretary.
Williamson had previously been sacked from that post and from another as education minister by Sunak’s predecessors.
Sunak has come under fire for the choice of some of his ministers after he was elected as Britain’s third prime minister in two months, vowing to restore integrity and professionalism to the heart of government.
He has come under pressure for appointing Suella Braverman as Home Secretary (interior minister), just six days after she had resigned from Liz Truss’ government, admitting she had wrongfully disclosed documents.
The new prime minister, who took over from Truss on October 25 following her six-week tenure in Downing Street, said he supported Williamson’s decision to resign.
Williamson said in a letter to Sunak on Tuesday that he was resigning in order to comply fully with a complaints process and clear his name. While he refuted the characterisation of the messages, he recognised that they were becoming a distraction for the government.
Gavin Williamson was sacked from Theresa May’s government in 2019 over claims — which he denied — that he had leaked details of a national security council meeting.
He was then dismissed as education secretary after two years in the role when Boris Johnson reshuffled his government in 2021.
Williamson was knighted in March this year, in a move strongly criticised by opposition parties.