Cabinet Minister Slams Gavin Williamson Over Claims He Told Civil Servant 'Slit Your Throat'

Asked if Williamson is a "good bloke", Mel Stride said he has "particular talents".
Gavin Williamson
Gavin Williamson
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

A cabinet minister has described allegations that Sir Gavin Williamson told a civil servant to “slit your throat” as “utterly unacceptable”.

Pensions secretary Mel Stride faced tough questions on Tuesday morning over claims Williamson bullied a civil servant.

It comes after The Guardian reported fresh incendiary allegations about Williamson’s conduct in previous government jobs.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure over his decision to bring his ally back into the cabinet.

According to the latest claims, Williamson told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” in a bullying campaign while he was defence secretary.

The ministry of defence official told the newspaper Williamson made the remarks in front of colleagues in a meeting, and on another occasion told them to “jump out of the window”.

Stride told Sky News on Tuesday morning: “If that is the case, that is utterly, utterly unacceptable, but at the moment it is in the realm of media speculation.”

Stride said he served in the whips’ office under Williamson, 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 on Times Radio if Williamson is a “good bloke”, Stride said he had “particular talents”.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride had to field tough questions on Williamson's conduct.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride had to field tough questions on Williamson's conduct.
NIKLAS HALLE'N via Getty Images

Williamson said he “strongly” rejects the allegation and insisted he has “enjoyed good working relationships” with officials.

But the allegations, including that Williamson “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” the civil servant on a regular basis, will add to calls for his sacking.

Sunak is under fire for making Williamson cabinet office minister when he knew he was under investigation for allegedly bullying former chief whip Wendy Morton.

In a series of expletive-laden texts exposed over the weekend, Williamson accused Morton of seeking to “punish” MPs out of favour with then-premier Liz Truss by excluding them from the Queen’s funeral, warning: “There is a price for everything.”

Williamson, who was sacked as defence secretary in 2019, issued a statement denying the broad allegations in The Guardian’s report but did not specifically deny using the language alleged.

“I strongly reject this allegation and have enjoyed good working relationships with the many brilliant officials I have worked with across government,” he said.

“No specific allegations have ever been brought to my attention.”

The newspaper said the official, who later left government, complained to the MoD’s head of human resources about the alleged incidents, but it was understood the cabinet office’s propriety and ethics team has not received a complaint about Williamson’s conduct towards officials.

A cabinet office spokesman said: “The cabinet office has not received notice of any formal complaints about Gavin Williamson’s behaviour from his time at the ministry of defence or any other department.”

Tory former cabinet minister Baroness Morgan said she had “run-ins” with Williamson when he was Theresa May’s chief whip, adding: “None of this surprises me, sadly.”

She told TalkTV: “Unfortunately Gavin has a reputation, it’s not a very nice one, and I really don’t know why Rishi Sunak felt he had to have him back in government.”

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: “These allegations are extremely serious and speak to the toxic culture at the top of the Conservative Party.”

Earlier in the day, Sunak was defying calls to sack Williamson despite conceding his messages to Morton were “not acceptable”.

The PM said he would not be “passing judgment” until after an “independent complaints investigation”, understood to be the internal investigation launched by the Tory party.

“I want to see the results of that, obviously, but I’ve been very clear that language is not right, it’s not acceptable,” he told broadcasters at the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt.

Former Tory party chairman Sir Jake Berry said he informed Sunak on the day he took the reins as Tory leader that Morton had lodged a formal complaint over the messages.

The PM went ahead with the appointment the next day, with Downing Street citing his belief that Williamson would make an “important contribution” to government.

Sunak has insisted he was unaware of the details of the exchange at the time he brought Williamson back into government, in the vague role of minister without portfolio.

Asked on Monday if Sunak had full confidence in the cabinet office minister, his official spokesman said: “Yes.”


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