Grant Shapps has added to the condemnation of Gavin Williamson’s abusive text messages to a colleague, as it was reported that Williamson threatened to reveal details about a Conservative MP’s private life when he was chief whip.
Shapps, the UK business secretary, said Williamson should not have sent the messages to Wendy Morton, who was chief whip under Liz Truss’s brief prime ministership.
The texts were revealed over the weekend to include angry remonstrations about not being invited to the Queen’s funeral and warnings that “there is a price for everything”.
Shapps told Sky News: “I don’t think it was the right thing to do, to send messages like that. I see they must have been sent in a moment of frustration. I think, generally, it is the case that it’s much better to write things which you would not live to regret later.
“And especially with colleagues, writing things which are polite, even if you have a point of view to express, I think is not unreasonable. So, I don’t think he was right to send them. The prime minister said the same. I know that the party is going through a process looking at them at the moment.”
Rishi Sunak brought back Williamson to the frontbench as a junior Cabinet Office minister. On Sunday, the prime minister said that while he was aware Morton had made a complaint about Williamson, he had not seen the messages beforehand.
“I hadn’t seen those texts before last night, I had not,” Sunak told the Sun newspaper in an interview en route to the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt. “I was aware there was a disagreement between him and the former chief whip.”
Labour and the Lib Dems have called for Sunak to sack Williamson. Sunak said the messages were “not acceptable or right”, but did not say if he would take any action.
On Monday, the Times reported that a current minister had claimed Williamson appeared to threaten her with potentially revealing details about her private life when he was chief whip in 2016.
She told the paper that Williamson called her to his office when she was campaigning on a politically sensitive issue and raised something about her private life “which she interpreted as a tacit threat”. Unnamed “allies” of Williamson said this had not been a threat, and that he had raised the issue in a “pastoral capacity”.
Morton is said to have cited the messages from Williamson in an email to the party on the day before Sunak was elected leader. She is also said to have informed the Cabinet Office and accused Williamson of “bullying and intimidation”.
After he was not among ministers or former ministers invited to attend the Queen’s funeral, Williamson texted Morton saying it was “very poor and sends a very clear message” that members of the privy council who were not “favoured” by Truss were being deliberately excluded, and said it looked “very shit”.
“Also don’t forget I know how this works so don’t puss [sic]me about,” he wrote.
“It’s very clear how you are going to treat a number of us which is very stupid and you are showing fuck all interest in pulling things together,” one message said. “Don’t bother asking anything from me.”
Another read: “Well let’s see how many more times you fuck us all over. There is a price for everything.”
Source: The Guardian