Gavin Williamson: Mel Stride addresses bullying accusations
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Minister without Portfolio Sir Gavin Williamson has faced fierce scrutiny over alleged texts he sent to former chief whip Wendy Morton. The Sunday Times has published a string of furious texts reportedly sent by Sir Gavin in which he accused Ms Morton of deliberately excluding some MPs from the Queen’s state funeral. The former chief whip has lodged a complaint against the Cabinet Minister and Sir Gavin will now face an official investigation by Conservative Party headquarters.
While the official party processes are ongoing, the matter appears to be a sensitive subject for the Tories as fellow Cabinet Minister Mel Stride was forced to swerve questions on Sir Gavin during the morning media rounds.
In an interview on Times Radio, Mr Stride was asked whether, in his personal experiences with Sir Gavin, he considered his colleague to be a “good bloke”.
The Work and Pensions Secretary replied: “I think Gavin [Williamson] is somebody who has particular talents and a particular understanding of the parliamentary party.
“I can see why, given that it is going to be very important to have a cohesive party going forward, he has a seat at the Cabinet table.”
Rather than discuss the personal character of Sir Gavin, Mr Stride swerved the question to focus on the wider party benefits that could be achieved from a Cabinet composed of various party factions.
Speaking of the investigation concerning Sir Gavin, Mr Stride added: “The most important thing when it comes to speculation and allegations is that there is fair process. There is a fair process underway at the moment.
“The complaint was made by Wendy Morton to Conservative Party headquarters so this is a party matter that is going through the party disciplinary and investigation process.
“I do think it would be wrong for me or anybody else for that matter to start attempting to prejudge the outcome of that.
“I think we have to wait for that to take its course and then of course we will have a clearer picture and a view from that process to tell us exactly what happened and the consequences that should follow.”
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Reports suggest Sir Gavin’s text messages to Ms Morton included warnings “not to push him about”.
Sir Gavin reportedly told the former chief whip “there is a price for everything,” and described Ms Morton’s treatment of Tory MPs as “very stupid”.
Oliver Dowden, Cabinet Minister and loyal ally of the Prime Minister said the texts had been sent by Sir Gavin in the “heat of the moment”.
Mr Dowden suggested the incident occurred at a “difficult time” when Sir Gavin was “frustrated” with the Government’s handling of affairs.
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The situation escalated on Monday evening after reports emerged of further abusive behaviour from Sir Gavin towards a senior civil servant.
The Guardian reported Sir Gavin told the unnamed civil servant to “slit your throat” during a meeting surrounded by colleagues.
On a separate occasion, the Cabinet Minister is said to have told civil servants to “jump out of the window”.
The Whitehall aide told The Guardian Sir Gavin “deliberately demeaned and intimated” government employees on a regular basis. Sir Gavin has “strongly” rejected allegations of bullying.
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