LONDON (AP) – A senior member of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet announced his resignation Tuesday night after mounting allegations that he bullied colleagues.
Gavin Williamson announced his resignation as minister of state without portfolio in a letter posted on Twitter, four days after the Times of London published text messages he sent to another member of parliament.
Afterwards, a senior civil servant alleged that Williamson subjected them to constant harassment, telling an individual to “cut his throat” on one occasion and to “jump out of a window” on another.
In his resignation letter, Williamson said he apologized for the text messages and was cooperating with the investigation into the conduct. But he rejected suggestions that the second incident involved bullying.
“I dispute the characterization of these claims but recognize that they become a distraction to the good work this government is doing for the British people,” Williamson wrote. “I have therefore decided to step down from government so that I can fully comply with the ongoing appeals process and clear my name of any wrongdoing.”
Williamson’s resignation comes amid criticism that Sunak has not followed through on his promise to make integrity a central focus of his government. Opposition leaders also called for the resignation of Interior Minister Suella Braverman, who was reappointed by Sunak just six days after she resigned for breaching ministerial conduct rules.
Sunak took office two weeks ago after his predecessor Liz Truss was forced to step down after her budget proposals sparked economic turmoil. Truss has been prime minister for just six weeks after replacing Boris Johnson, who resigned following a series of scandals ranging from illegal parties during the pandemic to allegations of misuse of political donations.
Many observers were surprised when Sunak appointed Williamson to a position in his government as he had twice been forced out of previous cabinet posts. Williamson resigned as defense secretary in 2019 following the leak of classified information from the National Security Council. He lost his job as education secretary in 2021 after standardized tests were suspended due to the pandemic.
Sunak thanked Williamson for his “unwavering support” as he accepted his resignation.
“I support your decision to stand down and understand why you did it,” the prime minister said in a letter to Williamson.