November 30, 2022

Key events

Williamson’s ‘bullying never acceptable’ video shows ‘rank hypocrisy’ at heart of government, say Lib Dems

When Sir Gavin Williamson was education secretary, he recorded a video for his department in which he said “bullying is never acceptable”. He said all schools should have anti-bullying policies in place.

The Liberal Democrats say the fact that Williamson could say this, when there is now considerable evidence that he himself bullied colleagues, shows the “rank hypocrisy” at the heart of government. Munira Wilson, the Lib Dem education spokesperson, said:

This exposes the rank hypocrisy and double standards at the heart of this Conservative government.

Gavin Williamson himself admitted that bullying is never acceptable.

Schools rightly have a zero tolerance approach to bullying. But once again it seems it’s one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else.

Good morning. There are two big departures in the news at Westminster this morning: Sir Gavin Williamson has left the government, and Sir David Butler has departed life, at the age of 98. We will be focusing on Williamson, but Butler, who almost invented modern psephology, is the greater and more consequential figure. If you think about elections in terms of percentages, swings and demographics, and if you value the TV punditry of experts like Prof Sir John Curtice, you are inhabiting a mental framework that Butler did as much as anyone to create. More on him later.

But, first, Gavin Williamson. He may have gone, but the questions about the decision to appoint him in the first place haven’t, and this morning David Lammy rehearsed some of the lines we might here from Keir Starmer at PMQs. Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, told the Today programme:

This raises real questions about the prime minister’s judgment. The behaviour [from Williamson] that we’ve heard about in the last few days is repellent, it’s odious, and it’s quite, quite unacceptable.

The prime minister knew much of this. It was reported to him. Why did he appoint Gavin Williamson to the government in the first place? Why did it even take 10 days to understand what Gavin Williamson would be doing?

He appointed him as some sort of enforcer, apparently because this is the way he behaves.

This is weak, it’s unacceptable, and we really should have an account of why why he came back into government.

When a scandal reaches the ‘raises questions about the PM’s judgment’ phase, that is a sign that it is beginning to go away. You don’t complain about “judgment” when you can complain about substance. But it is understandable why Labour does not want to let this go, and this attack line is valuable to the opposition because Rishi Sunak is unhappy having to defend the last 12 years of Tory government and would like the public to think he is leading a brand new government. But the Williamson appointment showed that he isn’t. Sunak’s cabinet is like an “edited highlights” of the Theresa May/Boris Johnson/Liz Truss administrations (with a bit of David Cameron thrown in), and, as a highly effective, backroom fixer and vote engineer, Williamson was someone who had made himself invaluable to Cameron, May and Johnson. And he performed a similar role with Sunak, which is why he got a job.

Here is our overnight story on Williamson’s resignation, by Pippa Crerar and Rowena Mason.

And here is the agenda for the day.

11am: MPs start voting in the ballot for a new chair for the Commons Treasury committee. The result will be announced in the afternoon.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

After 12.30pm: Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, makes a statement to MPs about the need for an election in Northern Ireland.

3.15pm: Sunak meets Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, in Downing Street.

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