PM May forces deputy to quit over porn scandal

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she hopes the investigation into her recently sacked deputy, Damian Green, will be "taken seriously" after he became embroiled in a pornography scandal.
Mr Damian Green resigned as first secretary of state, dealing a blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mr Damian Green resigned as first secretary of state, dealing a blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Green's statements about indecent material found on his office computers 'inaccurate'

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May forced her most senior minister, Mr Damian Green, to resign for lying about whether he knew pornography had been found on computers in his parliamentary office.

The resignation of one of Mrs May's closest political allies, who had helped pacify her deeply divided party, is a blow as she navigates the final year of tortuous negotiations ahead of Britain's exit from the European Union in March 2019.

Mr Green, who voted to stay in the EU, was appointed as first secretary of state just six months ago in a bid to shore up Mrs May's premiership following her disastrous bet on a June snap election that lost her party its majority in Parliament.

But Mr Green's future was thrust into doubt when The Sunday Times reported last month that police in 2008 had found pornography on his office computers in the Houses of Parliament. In response, Mr Green said the story was untrue.

A review, requested by Mrs May and conducted by a senior government official, concluded that Mr Green's statements, which suggested he was not aware that indecent material had been found on the computers, were "inaccurate and misleading". The inquiry, a summary of which was distributed by Mrs May's Downing Street office, found he had breached rules governing the behaviour of ministers because the police had told him about the indecent material.

"I apologise that my statements were misleading on this point," Mr Green said in a letter to Mrs May. "I regret that I've been asked to resign from the government."

Mr Green, 61, said he did not download or view pornography on his parliamentary computers. He added that he should have been clearer about his statements after the story broke.

Mrs May said she had asked him to resign and accepted his resignation with deep regret.

He is the most senior British politician to fall since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal triggered a debate about a culture of abuse by some powerful men at the heart of Westminster.

Mrs May's defence minister, Mr Michael Fallon, quit last month for unspecified conduct that he said had fallen below required standards. Her aid minister resigned a week later after holding undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.

During the turmoil that followed the botched election, Mrs May turned to Mr Green - a university friend from their days at Oxford - to stabilise her premiership and appease those within the Conservative Party who wanted her to quit.

One of his key roles was to act as a conduit for disgruntled party members who felt they had been ignored in Mrs May's election campaign. He sought to help her shed the image of a distant leader who listens only to those in her inner circle.

"It's another blow for May but it is not deadly in any way at all," said Professor Anand Menon, an expert in European politics at King's College London. "May is surviving not because of Damian Green, but because there are sufficient MPs in her party who don't want to have a leadership election while Brexit is going on and that fundamental calculation has not changed," he said.

The internal probe also addressed allegations, made by the daughter of a family friend, that Mr Green had made an unwanted advance towards her during a social meeting in 2015, had suggested this might further her career, and later had sent her an inappropriate text message.

The report said it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of Mr Green's behaviour in that instance, though the investigation found allegations to be plausible.

Mr Green said in his resignation letter that he did not recognise the account of events, but apologised to the woman, academic and critic Kate Maltby, for making her feel uncomfortable.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'PM May forces deputy to quit over porn scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe