Brexit Secretary David Davis has reportedly made clear he will quit if his cabinet colleague Damian Green is dismissed over allegations of pornography being found on his work computer almost a decade ago.
It comes after Neil Lewis, a former Scotland Yard detective who examined computer equipment in Mr Green’s office in 2008, told the BBC there were “thousands” of thumbnail images of legal pornography on the politician’s computer.
Mr Green, who is now effectively Theresa May’s deputy in his capacity as First Secretary of State, repeated his denial on Friday that he did not watch or download pornography on his work device.
A mutual friend of the Brexit Secretary and Mr Green told the London Evening Standard: “David would find it quite difficult to stay in his job and not resign if Damian was pushed out because of anything related to what happened 10 years ago.”
The friend added: “David has been absolutely fabulous to Damian in what are quite trying circumstances. He has put his cloak around him to that extent.”
A separate source close to the Brexit Secretary said: “It’s right that allegations of misconduct towards individuals are properly investigated, but police officers have a duty of confidentiality which should be upheld.”
But Mr Davis’s defence of his cabinet colleague was immediately ridiculed. The Labour MP Jess Phillips posted on Twitter: “David Davis. Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on your way out.”
“David Davis your red line, your hill to die on is really something. ‘What made you want to become an MP?’… ‘Great question, I really wanted to fight hard so people can w*** at work,” she added.
Earlier Ms Philips, who sits on the Women and Equalities Select Committee, told Radio 4’s Today programme that if the claims against Mr Green by the former detective were found to be accurate then he “cannot stay in his position”.
She continued: “There is absolutely no illegality – I don’t think anybody is saying that – but would you be fired if you looked at pornography on your work computer?”
Challenged over Mr Green’s denial of having watched porn on the computer, Ms Phillips said: “Of course he’s saying he’s telling the truth.
“When was the last time a cabinet minister put up their hand and said, ‘Yeah, I watch porn on my computer at work’?”
She added: “The problem for me in all of this is how power plays a part and how people use their power to not live by the same rules, the same standards that everybody else has to.
“What worries me about the Damian Green thing is, no matter whether it was found to be true or not, I think the politics matters more than the problem to the people in charge.”
The First Secretary is currently subject to a Cabinet Office inquiry into similar claims but it is not looking directly into whether pornography was found on Green’s computer in 2008 as the controversy dates from before he became a minister.
However, it has involved establishing whether allegations were part of a “pattern of behaviour”, that might have continued while Mr Green has been a minister, by taking evidence from his officials in the jobs held since.
The inquiry is also looking into separate allegations of sexual harassment towards a young female activist, Kate Maltby.
Mr Lewis, who made the claims on Friday, is now facing a considerable backlash from Conservative MPs and friends of Mr Green, who told the Press Association that they were “gobsmacked” at the former detective making his claims public and “outraged” at the BBC for broadcasting them.
Mr Lewis told the BBC he was involved in analysing the then opposition immigration spokesman’s computer during a police investigation into Home Office leaks.
He said that although “you can’t put fingers on a keyboard”, a number of factors meant that he was sure it was Mr Green himself who was accessing the “thumbnail” images.
“The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name,” said Mr Lewis.
“In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents ... it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”
But speaking to reporters outside his home in Kent, Mr Green said: “I’ve said I am not commenting any further while the investigation is going on.
“I have maintained all along and I still maintain – it is the truth – that I did not download or look at pornography on my computer, but obviously while the investigation is going on I can’t say any more.”
Mr Lewis is also facing an investigation by Scotland Yard for disclosing the alleged details of the case. “Confidential information gathered during a police inquiry should not be made public,” the Metropolitan Police said.
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