British Prime Minister Theresa May forced her most senior minister, Damian Green, to resign on Wednesday after an internal investigation found he had made misleading comments about pornography on computers in his parliamentary office.
British Prime Minister Theresa May forced her most senior minister, Damian Green, to resign on Wednesday after an internal investigation found he had made misleading comments about pornography on computers in his parliamentary office. Below are details about Green, the investigation into his behaviour and May’s decision to demand his resignation.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
An ally and a friend from their days at the University of Oxford, Green was appointed first secretary of state, May’s de-facto deputy, in the wake of her snap June election which stripped her party of its parliamentary majority. In the tumultuous weeks after the June vote, Green helped to stabilise May’s premiership and appease some of those within the Conservative Party who wanted her to quit. His departure is a blow for the government as May navigates the final year of tortuous Brexit negotiations before Britain’s exit from the European Union in March 2019. He is also the third minister to quit in recent weeks following the departure of the defence minister and the aid minister. The departure of Green, who like May voted in the 2016 referendum to stay in the EU, also removes one of her most senior advocates of a softer Brexit.
The resignation comes a day after May started the delicate process of agreeing a common negotiating position among her cabinet for the long-term relationship Britain wants to have with the EU after Brexit.
WHAT WERE THE ALLEGATIONS?
On Nov. 1 Kate Maltby, an academic, critic and family friend wrote an article in the Times newspaper alleging that Green had made an inappropriate sexual advance towards her in 2015. “He offered me career advice and in the same breath made it clear he was sexually interested,” said Maltby, who is three decades younger than Green. “He steered the conversation to the habitual nature of sexual affairs in parliament… He mentioned that his own wife was very understanding. I felt a fleeting hand against my knee.” Green denied the allegations as “absolutely and completely untrue”. May asked the Cabinet Office, responsible for the administrative functions of the government, to investigate.
Five days later the Sunday Times reported that the police had found pornography on a computer in Green’s office during a 2008 investigation into government leaks. Green said in a statement that the story was “completely untrue”. “More importantly, the police have never suggested to me that improper material was found on my parliamentary computer,” he added. In a second statement on Nov. 11, he again said no allegations about the presence of improper material on his parliamentary computers had ever been put to him.
On Wednesday, May’s office published a summary of its investigation into Green. It found that Green’s conduct as a minister was generally “professional and proper” and that it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of his behaviour with Maltby. It said however that the investigation found Maltby’s account of the events to be plausible. On the issue of pornography, it found the two statements made by Green on 4 and 11 November to be inaccurate and misleading.
“The Metropolitan Police Service had previously informed him of the existence of this material,” it said. “These statements therefore fall short of the honesty requirement of the Seven Principles of Public Life and constitute breaches of the Ministerial Code. Mr Green accepts this.”
On Wednesday, May asked for his resignation. “While I can understand the considerable distress caused to you by some of the allegations which have been made in recent weeks, I know that you share my commitment to maintaining the high standards which the public demands of Ministers of the Crown,” May wrote to Green in a letter. “It is therefore with deep regret, and enduring gratitude for the contribution you have made over many years, that I asked you to resign from the government and have accepted your resignation.” Green apologised for breaking the ministerial code.
He said that he did not download or view pornography on his parliamentary computers but accepted that he should have been more clear in his November statements about what the police had told him. He said he did not recognise the description Maltby gave of their 2015 meeting but said he had clearly made her feel uncomfortable and apologised. He added that he deeply regretted the distress caused to Maltby after she wrote the article. “I regret that I’ve been asked to resign from the government following breaches of the ministerial code, for which I apologise,” he said.