Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride has said he suspects Sir Gavin Williamson will still be part of Rishi Sunak’s top team at Christmas despite the latest allegation that he told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” while he was defense secretary.
Mr Stride told Sky News he is “not going to speculate on anybody’s future”, but when probed on whether he believes sir gavin will still be a Cabinet Office minister by Christmas, added: “I suspect the answer to that is yes.
“Because there is an investigation that will take some time and we’ve got to wait to see what comes out of that.
“The prime minister has made it clear that he’s an important member of his cabinet.
“We discussed earlier some of the strengths that he has and as an individual, and the important thing now is that the cabinet, which is broadly drawn from right across the parliamentary party, works together, closely together, drawing on all the talents we have – and Gavin most definitely has a number of talents – in order to do the very best that we can for the British at a difficult time.”
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He later added: “I don’t believe anybody is unsackable.”
An ex-official from the Ministry of Defense told The Guardian that Sir Gavin also told them to “jump out of the window”, in what they felt was a sustained campaign of bullying.
According to the newspaper, the civil servant, who later left the government, said Sir Gavin “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” them on a regular basis.
But in a statement, Sir Gavin said: “I strongly reject this allegation and have enjoyed good working relationships with the many brilliant officials I have worked with across government.
“No specific allegations have ever been brought to my attention.”
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Mr Stride told Sky News it would be “utterly, utterly unacceptable” if Sir Gavin made the alleged remarks.
“If that is the case, that is utterly, utterly unacceptable, but at the moment it is in the realm of media speculation,” he said.
The work and pensions secretary said 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,” he told Kay Burley.
“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.”
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While the senior civil servant who made the allegations is said to have reported the incidents informally to the MoD’s head of human resources, they decided against making a formal complaint.
However, they said a senior military aide working in the department later apologized to them for not calling out his behaviour.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The Cabinet Office has not received notice of any formal complaints about Gavin Williamson’s behavior from his time at the Ministry of Defense or any other department.”
The Cabinet Office minister is currently facing allegations that he sent abusive messages to former chief whip Wendy Mortoncomplaining that he and other colleagues had been excluded from the Queen’s funeral for political reasons.
But while Mr Sunak has condemned the language as “not acceptable”, he yesterday said it was “right” for a complaints investigation to take place “before making any decisions about the future”.
While his official spokesman earlier said the PM had full confidence in him.
Sir Gavin served as defense secretary from November 2017 until May 2019, but was fired by then-PM Theresa May over a row around a leak from government.
He was hired back by Boris Johnson as education secretary two months later, but was again ousted in September 2021 after much criticism of his handling of the brief during the COVID pandemic.
Mr Sunak brought him back into government two weeks ago to serve as a Cabinet Office minister who also attends cabinet.