Vastavam web: Gavin Williamson, a close aide of Prime Minister Theresa May, was today appointed as Britain’s new defence secretary after his predecessor Michael Fellon resigned amid a deepening sexual harassment scandal engulfing UK parliamentarians.Fallon,65, resigned as defence secretary saying his conduct may have fallen below the high standards expected amid revelations that he had made unwanted advances towards a journalist years ago.
He was replaced by 41-year-old Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire, who has been responsible for exerting discipline over the prime minister’s fractious parliamentary party since last year.It remains unclear if it was the particular revelation of Fallon repeatedly placing his hand on the knee of journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer that triggered his decision to step down or there were other incidents involving an abuse of power that may have precipitated his departure.
Hartley-Brewer, at the centre of the allegations that came to light earlier this week, has stressed that she did not see herself as a victim and that the incident had not “remotely upset or distressed” anyone.”If this is over kneegate, him touching my knee 15 years ago and me not having any issue with it today, this is the most insane, absurd and ridiculous resignation of a Cabinet minister ever,” she said.While May moved quickly to appoint a new defence minister without the need for a very wide reshuffle, the position of another of her senior ministers, First Secretary of State Damian Green, remains precarious after disclosures by an academic and Conservative party activist Kate Maltby.
He has categorically denied making unwanted sexual advances towards Maltby but remains under investigation by Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood on the orders of May.There are growing fears that Fallon’s surprise resignation could trigger a freefall within government ranks and lead to more shake-ups.It has attracted a mixed response because it implicates MPs who have had consensual affairs with colleagues in the same space as more serious accusations of sexual abuse.
The Prime Minister is struggling to contain the crisis and opened parliamentary proceedings yesterday with a statement on the issue, stressing that she had been holding a series of meetings to set up a “common, transparent, independent” grievance procedure.Indian-origin Opposition Labour MP Lisa Nandy challenged her in the House of Commons over her failure to act over sexual abuse cover-up she had informed her about three years ago when May was the UK home secretary.May assured the House that she was determined to take firm action and is set to hold a meeting with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn early next week to address the issue across party lines.