Sunak defends Gavin Williamson over furious texts

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Rishi Sunak was confronted on why he appointed the ex-whip chief Sir Gavin Williamson as minister after a complaint was levelled at him over the exchange of a series of expletive-laden texts addressed to former chief whip Wendy Morton. The Prime Minister was trying to defend his decision to keep Mr Williamson in his position when the BBC Political Editor Chris Mason asked: “If it is not acceptable, why on Earth are you keeping him as a minister?” Downing Street confirmed that the Prime Minister knew about a complaint against Sir Gavin before appointing him to the Cabinet.


Mr Sunak defended his decision, saying: “There’s an independent complaint process that’s being conducted at the moment. 

“It will be right to let that process conclude before making any decisions about the future.”

When asked if the texts sent by Sir Gavin Williamson amounted to “bullying”, Mr Sunak repeated a decision would be made after the independent complaints process is finalised. 

He said: “But I’ve been very clear that the language is not right. It’s not acceptable. And that’s why I welcome the fact that Gavin Williamson has expressed regret about that.”

The WhatsApp texts, exposed by the Sunday Times, contained accusations sent by Sir Gavin to Ms Morton in which he accused her of excluding some MPs from the Queen’s funeral.

Following the incident, Ms Morton complained to the Conservatives Party on 24 October about Sir Gavin’s texts. 

In a statement, Sir Gavin said: “I of course regret getting frustrated about the way colleagues and I felt we were being treated.”

However, the ex-Chief whip has reportedly not yet received an apology or any contact from Mr Williamson.

In the text messages, Mr Williamson is said to have complained to Ms Morton that MPs who had not supported then-PM Liz Truss were being excluded from the Queen’s funeral service at Westminster Abbey.

Sir Gavin is said to have warned Ms Morton “not to push him about” and that “there is a price for everything”.

The prime minister’s spokesman told reporters that Mr Sunak “knew there was a disagreement” but he didn’t know “the substance” of messages until they were published in the Sunday Times.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has criticised Rishi Sunak for surrounding himself with people who are “not fit” to be in the Cabinet. 

Sir Keir said: “He’s clearly got people around the cabinet table who are not fit to be there.”

The Prime Minister said he will wait for the results of the investigation to make a decision on Sir Gavin Williamson.

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