UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigns
UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigned on Wednesday evening after an allegation of inappropriate conduct, saying his behavior may have “fallen short.”
In a statement, Fallon said: “In recent days allegations have been made about MPs’ conduct, including my own.
“Many of these have been false, but I realize that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces, which I have the privilege to represent.”
Earlier this week, the 65-year-old politician apologized to journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer after she alleged that a senior Cabinet minister had repeatedly placed his hand on her knee during a party conference dinner in 2002. She had not named Fallon directly.
According to Hartley-Brewer, the politician withdrew his hand after she told him that if he continued, she would “punch him in the face.” She has repeatedly said she is not a sexual harassment victim, writing on her Twitter account last week: “He tried it on, I turned him down. Now move on.”
On Wednesday evening, Hartley-Brewer reacted to Fallon’s resignation on Twitter and said: “I doubt my knee was the reason.” There had not been any further allegations made against Fallon at the time of publishing.
The Tory MP is the first British politician to resign amid the growing Westminster sexual harassment scandal.
Earlier on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May ordered an investigation into her deputy, Damian Green, amid allegations of unwanted advances toward a female writer. Green has denied the harassment claims.
Last week, May ordered an investigation into international trade minister Mark Garnier, who reportedly admitted to a newspaper that he asked his personal assistant to buy sex toys and used a sexual slur against her.
The recent allegations of sexual abuse in some British political circles have snowballed after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October. The accusations against Hollywood movie producer Weinstein have led to a platform for victims of abuse around the world to share their experiences, through the viral #MeToo campaign.
The Prime Minister’s office has said all allegations of sexual harassment are to be taken seriously and has urged victims of assault and harassment to report it to the police.
In a letter accepting Fallon’s resignation on Wednesday, May praised his “diligent service.”
She said: “I appreciate the characteristically serious manner in which you have considered your position, and the particular example you wish to set to servicemen and women and others.”
Fallon’s resignation comes at a politically tumultuous time for May’s Cabinet members, who are due to resume Brexit negotiations in Brussels next week.
By Kara Fox