UK minister quits amid bullying row, PM Rishi Sunak under pressure

London (TIP):  British PM Rishi Sunak was under pressure from the Opposition on November 8 as he expressed regret on appointing one of his close allies and embattled ministers who was forced to resign pending an investigation into allegations of bullying against him. Sir Gavin Williamson is accused of abusive behaviour towards Conservative Party colleagues and civil servants and denies any wrongdoing. However, after days of controversy over what Sunak knew about the allegations before appointing him as a minister without portfolio to his Cabinet, Williamson stepped down on Tuesday night.

The Opposition has branded the episode as a sign of “poor judgement and leadership” by Sunak and Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer used the weekly PM’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons to pile on further pressure over the issue. “I obviously regret it… for the record, I did not know about any of the specific concerns,” Sunak said, when asked by Starmer if he regrets appointing Williamson. “The message that I clearly want to send is that integrity in public life matters,” he said, adding that it was right that the minister had resigned while he was being probed.

In his resignation letter, Williamson said he refutes the “characterisation” of the claims about his “past conduct”, but felt they had become a “distraction from the good work the government is doing”. It referred to some expletive-laden text messages he reportedly sent to the former Tory party whip, Wendy Morton, over being overlooked during Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

These were published in The Sunday Times and since then others have come forward to allege “intimidating” behaviour while Williamson was a Cabinet minister under previous PMs. He has since been reported to the parliamentary bullying watchdog, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, and says he has apologised to the recipient of the texts. — PTI

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