Gavin Williamson 'refuses to answer questions' about 'kiss' with former colleague as leadership rumours build

The Cabinet minister admitted on Thursday that he had had a 'flirtatious' office romance with a colleague that 'nearly destroyed two marriages'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Saturday 27 January 2018 13:02
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Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson leaves No 10
Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson leaves No 10

Gavin Williamson has reportedly refused to answer questions about a relationship with a former colleague as speculation mounts over a future leadership bid from the Defence Secretary.

It comes after the former chief whip turned Cabinet minister admitted on Thursday that he had had a “flirtatious” office romance with a colleague around the time his first son was born, adding that it “nearly destroyed two marriages”.

He said he made the “dreadful mistake” in kissing his co-worker on more than one occasion in 2005 while he was working as a manager at fireplace manufacturer Elgin and Hall in Yorkshire. The pair “shared a kiss a couple of times” but the relationship “never went further,” he said.

But on Friday the Guardian reported that the Daily Mail published its interview with the married Cabinet minister after lawyers for the Defence Secretary refused to answer a series of questions about his departure from the Yorkshire firm over a decade ago.

The questions included whether the woman reported Mr Williamson’s behaviour to her line manager and an internal process followed. He also did not disclose the outcome of the process, the terms on which he departed and whether he received a pay-off upon leaving the company.

Mr Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire, added in his interview the Daily Mail: “Through work I often spent time away from home visiting customers. Sometimes, I would be accompanied by other employees.

“I had a good relationship with everyone I worked with, but one person this started to develop into something more. We had to travel together and spent a lot of time in each other’s company, the relationship became flirtatious and a couple of times we shared a kiss.”

The disclosure over his relationship with a former colleague also prompted a flurry of speculation that Mr Williamson is considering a possible future leadership bid should Theresa May step down from office. One senior Conservative source told the i newspaper on Friday: “Gavin wants to be leader – that’s clear”.

The 41-year-old MP got his big break in 2013 as parliamentary private secretary to David Cameron, serving in the post for three years. He was selected by Ms May as her parliamentary campaign manager for the Conservative leadership contest triggered by Mr Cameron's resignation following the EU referendum.

He was promoted from chief whip – responsible for party discipline – to Defence Secretary when Michael Fallon resigned from the position late last year after being accused of making inappropriate advances towards a journalist in 2002.

The Independent has contacted Mr Williamson’s spokesperson for comment.

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