Rishi Sunak said threatening and abusive texts sent by Sir Gavin Williamson to a colleague were ‘not acceptable or fair’ as he insisted he had been aware of a ‘disagreement’ but not of the exchange details.
The Prime Minister is under fire for bringing Sir Gavin back into government after he was warned he was under investigation for allegedly bullying former chief whip Wendy Morton.
On Sunday evening, Mr Sunak told The Sun: “I hadn’t seen these texts until last night, I hadn’t seen them.
“I knew there was a disagreement between him and the former chief whip.”
Former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry told Mr Sunak on the day he took office that Ms Morton had made a formal complaint about the messages.
In these, Sir Gavin angrily accused her of seeking to ‘punish’ MPs like himself who were not in favor of Liz Truss by excluding them from the Queen’s funeral.
The text exchange, obtained by The Sunday Times, concluded with him saying: “Well let’s see how many times you fuck us all over. There’s a price for everything.”
Mr Sunak said: ‘They were neither acceptable nor correct.
“It was a difficult time for our party at the time, but no matter what, people should always be treated with respect.
“I’m glad Gavin expressed his regret.
“There is an independent complaints process underway, it’s fair and reasonable, we’re letting this come to an end.”
Previously, Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden – one of Mr Sunak’s closest allies – insisted the Prime Minister still had faith in Sir Gavin, who is now also a Cabinet Minister.
“As you saw from former President Jake Berry, he says he underlined that to the Prime Minister,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
“But in terms of the specific allegations, the specific exchange, the Prime Minister was unaware of that until last night.”
However, Labor said it once again raised questions about Mr Sunak’s judgment after he reappointed Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after being forced to resign over a security breach.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband told Sky News: “These are incredibly serious issues and I think it really challenges Rishi Sunak’s judgment and the way he has made decisions about his cabinet. “
In the messages, Sir Gavin complained it was ‘very bad’ that MPs ‘unfavoured’ were excluded from the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Ms Morton has repeatedly insisted that her claims were unfounded and that the government had been allocated an ‘extremely limited’ number of tickets.
Sir Gavin retorted: “Well, it certainly sounds like thinking is very shitty and perception becomes reality. Also remember that I know how it works, so don’t pester me (sic).
“It’s very clear how you’re going to treat a number of us which is very stupid and you show the whole point of putting things together.
“Also it shows exactly how much you faked it, it’s (sic) disgusting, you’re using her death to punish people who are just supporting her, absolutely disgusting.
“Well, let’s see how many times you fuck us all over. There is a price for everything. »
Sir Jake told the newspaper he was told by the chief executive of the Conservative Party on October 24 – the day before Mr Sunak officially took office – that a formal complaint had been made against Sir Gavin.
“As per protocol, in my capacity as party chairman, I informed the new prime minister and his new chief of staff of the complaint on the same day,” he said.
Sir Gavin, who was knighted by Boris Johnson earlier this year, is a divisive figure in 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 Defense Secretary for leaking details of a National Security Council meeting, then by Mr Johnson as Education Secretary over the debacle Covid-19 A levels.
However, he was seen as a key figure in Mr Sunak’s campaign over the summer to become party leader.
Conservative Party spokesperson: “The Conservative Party has a robust complaints process in place.
“This process is rightly confidential, so complainants can come forward in confidence.”