LONDON (AP) — A senior official in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government announced his resignation Tuesday night after mounting allegations that he intimidated his 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 profanity-laden text messages he sent to another MP.
After that, a senior official alleged that Williamson subjected them to sustained bullying, telling them to “cut their throats” on one occasion and “jump out the window” on another.
In his resignation letter, Williamson said he apologized for the text messages and was cooperating with an investigation into that conduct. But he dismissed suggestions that the second incident involved bullying.
“I refute 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 complaints process and clear my name of any wrongdoing.”
Williamson’s resignation comes amid criticism that Sunak has failed to deliver on his promise to make integrity a central goal of his government. Opposition leaders have also called for the resignation of Interior Minister Suella Braverman, whom Sunak reappointed just six days after stepping down for breaking ministerial rules of conduct.
Sunak took office two weeks ago after his predecessor, Liz Truss, was forced to resign after his budget proposals sparked economic turmoil. Truss served as Prime Minister for just six weeks after replacing Boris Johnson, who resigned after a series of scandals ranging from illegal parties during pandemic shutdowns to allegations of misuse of political donations.
Many observers were surprised when Sunak appointed Williamson to a post in his government because he was twice expelled from previous cabinet posts. Williamson resigned as Secretary of Defense in 2019 after confidential National Security Council information was leaked. He lost his job as education secretary in 2021 after standardized exams were halted due to the pandemic.
Sunak thanked Williamson for his “unwavering support” as he accepted the resignation.
“I support your decision to step back and understand why you took it,” the prime minister said in a letter to Williamson.