Gavin Williamson is no better than his own tarantula, says Tory minister

Gavin Williamson is no better than his own tarantula, says Tory minister
‘Utterly unacceptable’ if Gavin Williamson told aide to ‘slit your throat’, says …
Sky News

Gavin Williamson would likely feel right at home in the I’m a Celebrity jungle given that he’s basically a creepy-crawly himself, according to one fellow Tory minister.

Whilst nothing to do with bushtucker trials, the former Education Secretary, is undergoing a trial of his own following allegations that he told a senior civil servant to “slit [their] throat” and “jump out of a window”.

Sir Gavin, who was knighted earlier this year and now serves as Minister without Portfolio, is already under investigation for allegedly bullying former chief whip Wendy Morton, but now a Ministry of Defence (MoD) official has told The Guardian about other jaw-dropping comments he has allegedly made.

Naturally, the morning after these fresh accusations emerged it was the hot topic on the breakfast media round, and Conservative MP Mel Stride was carted off to deal with the fall-out. But rather than convincingly defend his colleague, he likened him to his own tarantula.

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The Work and Pensions Secretary, who served in the Whips’ Office under Williamson in 2016, was confronted by Sky’s Kay Burley who said bluntly that Williamson “doesn’t seem a particularly pleasant bloke or boss”.

Rather than categorically refute such a damning assessment, Stride replied more descriptiveley that when then worked together there was “always this great aura” around Sir Gav.

“Do you remember Cronus, the spider, the tarantula etc?” he continued. “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.”

We would argue that essentially telling someone to kill themselves is a pretty biting threat by any standards.

At least, on this point, Stride was a little clearer. He stressed that if it was, indeed, true that Wiliamson had made those throat-slitting, window-jumping remarks, it would be “utterly, utterly unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Sir Gavin has 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 Sir Gavin’s conduct towards officials.

However, the accusation that he “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” the civil servant on a regular basis, has added to the mounting pressure on Rishi Sunak to sack him from his top team.

The Prime Minister is already under fire for bringing Sir Gavin back into Government when he knew he was under investigation for sending abusive texts to Morton.

In a series of expletive-laden messages exposed over the weekend, the South Staffordshire MP accused the then-chief whip 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.”

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

She told TalkTV on Monday: “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.”

Williamson is a divisive figure at Westminster where he is viewed with suspicion by many Tory MPs because of his reputation as an inveterate plotter.

He was sacked first by Theresa May as Defence Secretary in 2019 for leaking details of a National Security Council meeting, and then by Boris Johnson as Education Secretary over the Covid-19 A-levels debacle.

But he was regarded as a key figure in Sunak’s campaign over the summer to become party leader, which is what many believe secured him a seat at the Cabinet table.

The way things are going, we wouldn't be surprised if Sir Gav fancies a change in scenery. And now that a place has opened up in the I'm a Celeb camp, he might want to give his colleague Matt Hancock a buzz and ask him to save him a seat...

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