Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson came under renewed pressure last night as damaging new details emerged about his relationship with an ex-work colleague.
A former executive at the fireplace firm where the Tory rising star was managing director said Mr Williamson ‘had the hots’ for the married young woman and bombarded her with flowers.
The revelation came amid claims that the woman had accused Mr Williamson – himself married – of sexual harassment when they worked together 14 years ago and that he left the company ‘under a cloud’.
The source at fireplace firm Elgin & Hall told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Williamson’s behaviour was the talk of the company in Bedale, North Yorkshire.
His attraction to the woman, a junior manager, became evident to staff at a corporate event held at a stately home in Surrey, said the former employee.
Revelations: Gavin Williamson, pictured with his wife Joanne, ‘sent flowers to a colleague’
But the woman’s husband found out and Mr Williamson, 41, left the company shortly afterwards ‘under a bit of a cloud’.
The ex-employee recalled: ‘He was very ambitious, very thrusting. He was brought into the firm aged only 28. He had the hots for this woman and regularly sent her flowers. He had a big Jaguar which he got other people to drive while he sat there waxing lyrical about the Tory party.’
Mr Williamson, tipped as a future Prime Minister, last week confessed to a ‘flirtatious relationship’ with a colleague around the time his first son was born, admitting he ‘nearly destroyed two marriages’.
If forced out, he would be the second Defence Secretary sacked over a sex scandal in only three months.
Sir Michael Fallon had to resign in November over a series of harassment allegations, admitting his behaviour towards women had ‘fallen short’. Mr Williamson – then Chief Whip – was accused by some Tory colleagues of urging Theresa May to wield the knife. But last night he was the one looking isolated at Westminster.
Mr Williamson, tipped as a future Prime Minister, last week confessed to a ‘flirtatious relationship’ with a colleague around the time his first son was born, admitting he ‘nearly destroyed two marriages’
One ally of Sir Michael said: ‘If Michael can lose his career over a hand on a knee, then Gavin had better be telling the truth about what happened.’ The new revelations will undermine Mrs May’s call for a ‘culture of respect’ as she pledged to tackle the Westminster sexual misconduct scandal late last year. On Thursday, Mr Williamson said he and his former colleague had shared ‘a couple’ of kisses, but insisted: ‘It never went further than that… It was a dreadful mistake.’
Referring to his wife, he added: ‘Having to explain to Joanne what had happened was one of the most difficult conversations of my life.’
The fling developed in 2004, before Mr Williamson embarked on his Westminster career. It is claimed a meeting was held to discuss the issue with executives from parent firm Aga after the woman made a complaint of sexual harassment.
Former staff told The Guardian that Mr Williamson left Elgin & Hall days later with no explanation. Aga has declined to comment. Last night, a friend of Mr Williamson’s said the Cabinet Minister stuck ‘one hundred per cent’ by his version of events. The friend said: ‘There was no sexual harassment of any kind.’
A married mum in her 30s who no longer works at the firm is believed to be the woman in question. She declined to discuss the case.