Did Andrea Leadsom knife Michael Fallon to save her job?

Andrea Leadsom saved her job by accusing Sir Michael Fallon of sexual harassment.

The Commons Leader was facing the axe in Theresa May’s next reshuffle amid talk of her plotting another leadership bid.

Tory sources said Mrs Leadsom’s decision to lodge a formal complaint against Sir Michael had made her unsackable. He was forced to resign as defence secretary over the allegation, which dates back to 2011.

One of his allies said: ‘If you’re offended by something, why wait six years to say it?

‘Is this her way of securing her political survival? Nobody’s going to dare sack a whistleblower.’

Keeping a low profile: Sir Michael Fallon visits a grammar school in Tonbridge in his Kent constituency yesterday

A senior minister accused Mrs Leadsom of overplaying her hand, adding: ‘A lewd joke six years ago is not the basis for a serious complaint. The PM should have told her to get lost. But she is unsackable now. You cannot sack a woman who’s complained of sexual harassment – it’s impossible.’

In other developments in the Westminster scandal:

  • It emerged that Jeremy Corbyn promoted his friend Kelvin Hopkins to Labour’s front bench despite being told about claims he had sexually harassed a young female activist;
  • Another of the Labour leader’s allies, Clive Lewis, is facing an official complaint that he groped a woman at a conference party;
  • Mrs May published a tough new code of conduct for all Tory MPs, party officials and councillors;
  • The author of a dossier of allegations against 42 MPs was alleged to be a former Conservative Party researcher who now works for Lord Mandelson;
  • The Cabinet Office continued its investigation into claims of sexual harassment against First Secretary of State Damian Green and trade minister Mark Garnier.

Mrs Leadsom brought about the end of Sir Michael’s Cabinet career this week by making a series of allegations to Mrs May about his past behaviour.

Tory sources said Mrs Leadsom raised ‘vile’ comments made by him when the pair were members of the Commons Treasury committee six years ago.

When she complained of cold hands, he is said to have told her: ‘I know where you can put them to warm them up.’

Andrea Leadsom brought about the end of Sir Michael’s Cabinet career this week by making a series of allegations to Mrs May about his past behaviour

Andrea Leadsom brought about the end of Sir Michael’s Cabinet career this week by making a series of allegations to Mrs May about his past behaviour

Mrs Leadsom is also said to have complained that Sir Michael was too ‘tactile’ and once put his arm around her in what a source described as ‘unwanted attention’.

Sir Michael has categorically denied the claims. But a friend acknowledged he may have made derogatory comments about women’s looks in Mrs Leadsom’s hearing.

The former defence secretary had also admitted repeatedly putting his hand on the knee of journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer at a lunch 15 years ago. He admitted to Mrs May that he could not rule out further allegations being made about his conduct.

In his resignation letter he said his past conduct had ‘fallen below the high standards we require of the armed forces’.

Mrs Leadsom made her bombshell allegations on Monday morning, sparking three days of crisis meetings in No 10 which ended in Sir Michael’s departure.

Hours after informing Mrs May of her claims Mrs Leadsom announced a tough test for dealing with ministers found guilty of sexual harassment.

Now Green’s ‘tablecloth touched her knee’ defence falls apart 

Damian Green’s allies have launched a bizarre defence against claims that he touched a woman’s knee – by saying she may have mistaken a tablecloth for his hand.

The First Secretary of State has been accused of making inappropriate advances towards the daughter of a family friend.

Kate Maltby, 31, alleged that Mr Green, 61, ‘put a fleeting hand against my knee’ during a meeting in a bar. But one friend of Mr Green told The Daily Telegraph: ‘She claims it is fleeting touch [of her knee]. But that could have been a tablecloth.’

Yesterday, however, the Evening Standard said that there were no tablecloths, only napkins, at the Archduke in Waterloo – the bar near Westminster where he is believed to have met Miss Maltby.

Last night a source close to Mr Green said he had nothing to do with the tablecloth claim. And earlier this week, he said: ‘It is absolutely and completely untrue that I’ve ever made any sexual advances on Ms Maltby.’

Speaking in the Commons, with a grim-faced Mrs May beside her, Mrs Leadsom warned that those found to have made women ‘feel uncomfortable’ would face the sack. She told MPs she was setting the bar for dismissal ‘significantly below criminal activity’.

That evening, Sir Michael was named in a newspaper as the Cabinet minister who had touched Miss Hartley-Brewer’s knee.

On Wednesday – with chief whip Gavin Williamson advising Mrs May he would have to go – Sir Michael agreed to resign.

Downing Street yesterday insisted that Mrs Leadsom had not directly demanded his departure. She has declined to make any comment on the issue.

But senior Tories said she had been instrumental in the removal of one of Mrs May’s closest Cabinet allies. Her intervention has fuelled fears that the Westminster sex scandal could tear the Government apart.

Last month insiders said Mrs Leadsom was being lined up for the sack again in a reshuffle this autumn

Last month insiders said Mrs Leadsom was being lined up for the sack again in a reshuffle this autumn

One Cabinet minister said: ‘What does she think she’s doing? We’re supposed to be a team. Does she want to bring the whole ****ing Government down?’

The Prime Minister had planned to sack Mrs Leadsom following the general election in June.

She was forced to step back after losing her Commons majority and instead demoted her.

Last month insiders said Mrs Leadsom was being lined up for the sack again in a reshuffle this autumn. Her behaviour since the election has irritated No 10 and led to speculation she still sees herself as a future party leader.

In June she made a high-profile media visit to Grenfell Tower, despite having no formal role in dealing with the disaster.

Her visit was made at a time when Mrs May was facing intense criticism for not meeting families caught up in the disaster. The following month, friends of Mrs Leadsom briefed the media that she was being urged by dozens of Tory MPs to launch another leadership bid.

The South Northamptonshire MP has also raised eyebrows in the Commons by referring to ‘my government’ when talking about Mrs May’s administration. She is said to have stunned Cabinet colleagues by telling Mrs May that her approach to Brexit was ‘disastrous’ – a claim she denies.

A Cabinet source said: ‘It’s fair to say her contributions are not always welcomed by colleagues.’ Mrs Leadsom was Mrs May’s final leadership challenger last year in the contest that followed David Cameron’s resignation.

She pulled out after controversy over a newspaper interview in which she suggested being a mother gave her a greater stake in society. Her comments were seen as an ill-judged swipe at Mrs May, who is childless.

Last night, the Prime Minister wrote to Commons Speaker John Bercow setting out the new code of conduct for Tory representatives.

Mrs May said there was a ‘vital need to provide better support and protection for the thousands of staff working in Westminster and in constituency offices across the country’.

My drink was spiked with date rape drug in MPs’ bar 

A former Tory official said yesterday that her drink was spiked with a date rape drug in a Westminster bar used by MPs.

Jo Tanner, who now runs a public relations agency, said the experience earlier this year left her feeling ‘frightened and violated’.

The incident happened in the Strangers’ Bar, which is reserved for MPs and their guests when Parliament is sitting.

Mrs Tanner, who ran campaigns for Boris Johnson and David Cameron, said she was out with journalists that night and did not believe any MPs were present at the time. She said she was described as ‘bouncing off the walls’ as she ‘zigzagged along the corridor’.

She told The Times: ‘I was not assaulted, that I can remember or have evidence of. I arrived home fully clothed but unable to speak properly. The doctor said it was a classic case of a date rape drug incident.’

Mrs Tanner said no-one from the parliamentary authorities has ever contacted her about what happened in the bar and that the system for reporting such incidents on the premises ‘clearly doesn’t work’.


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