British PM Theresa May’s top Cabinet ally Damian Green quits over porn allegations


Damian Green is the third member of British Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet to leave office since the start of November.
Damian Green is the third member of British Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet to leave office since the start of November.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Prime Minister Theresa May’s effective deputy, Damian Green, resigned after an official investigation found that he had made misleading statements about pornography on one of his parliamentary office computers, and left questions unanswered about his behaviour towards a female activist.

“I am extremely sad to be writing this,” May wrote in a letter to Green, released by her office, asking him to quit. “We have been friends and colleagues throughout our whole political lives.”

His departure strips her of one of the most loyal members of her government as she seeks to steer Britain’s path out of the European Union and rescue her struggling premiership. The 61-year-old and May knew each other since they were at Oxford University and he is one of her closest political allies – ushered into the Cabinet after her election debacle.

He is the third member of her Cabinet to leave office since the start of November. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon quit over inappropriate sexual behavior while Priti Patel stepped down as international development secretary after she misled the Premier over private meetings with Israeli officials.

Unlike the previous two resignations, Green’s won’t require a Cabinet reshuffle – his role came without a departmental portfolio – and officials in May’s office said there were no immediate plans to replace him.

It is not clear in any case who in the government could take over as May’s all-round trusted fixer and advisor.

Green’s is the latest and most senior British head to roll as a result of women coming forward to complain about inappropriate sexual behavior in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

 

In October, when that story broke, Green was asked whether he thought there were similar episodes in British politics. “People’s awareness generally of the facts that there are usually men in power who seek to exploit that power for bad purposes is the best defense against it,” he replied.

Two weeks later, he was himself in the spotlight, after a journalist and Conservative activist 30 years his junior, Kate Maltby, described how he had taken her for a drink in 2015 to discuss her political career.

After discussing political sex scandals, she wrote, “he mentioned that his own wife was very understanding. I felt a fleeting hand against my knee – so brief, it was almost deniable”.

When the article was published, Green did indeed deny it, but May asked her civil servants to investigate whether he had broken the ministerial code. That investigation led a former senior officer from London’s Metropolitan Police, Bob Quick, to allege that pornography was found on a computer in Green’s office before he became a minister.

Green described Quick’s accusations as “false, disreputable political smears” that “amount to little more than an unscrupulous character assassination”.

Quick, who was in charge of a police raid on Green’s office in 2008 during an inquiry into leaks of government information, in turn threatened legal action if Green did not retract the claim.

Two more former police officers involved in the 2008 inquiry publicly backed up Quick, a move condemned by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. The inquiry, the conclusions of which were released by May’s office, found that it was “is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion” on Maltby’s allegation, but added that it “found Ms Maltby’s account to be plausible”.

In his resignation letter, Green said he did not recognise Maltby’s version of events, “but I clearly made her feel uncomfortable and for this I apologise”. But it seems to have been Green’s denials about the pornography that cost him his job.

The inquiry found that two statements Green made in November, a week apart, saying he had not been told what was found on his computers, “were inaccurate and misleading, as the Metropolitan Police Service had previously informed him of the existence of this material”. In his resignation letter, Green said he still denied downloading or viewing pornography.

May spoke to Green on Wednesday afternoon after her weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session, according to a person familiar with their discussion, and told him he would have to quit. In her letter to Green, May described her feelings as “deep regret, and enduring gratitude for the contribution you have made over many years”.