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The storm sweeping through parliament sees us with a new defence secretary

While sexual harassment in the workplace is often considered an uncomfortable topic, the Harvey Weinstein case has seen more people raise their voice in outrage. It’s for this reason former defence secretary Michael Fallon no longer has a place at the prime minister’s side.
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According to the Evening Standard, the defence secretary handing in his resignation comes hand-in-hand with a comment made to Andrea Leadsom, head of energy and climate change, during a meeting in 2011.

It seems Fallon voiced opinion on her cold hands –”I know where you can put them to warm them up.” That he “put his arm around her in a tactile manner” was further brought to light. Journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer also claimed he placed his hand on her knee in 2002.

Prime minister Theresa May was non too happy hearing of such behaviour – as was evident by the appointment of a new defence secretary – with Fallon himself claiming it was an act far below “the standards required for the role”.

Taking over from Fallon is Gavin Williamson, previous chief whip, who has been met with a marmite reaction – though everyone seems to love his tarantula named Cronus. Some portray him as skilled and savvy, while others suggest the move was purely political.

Former head of army, Richard Dannatt, for example, told BBC News that the incident was all about “bolstering May’s position”.

Whatever your opinion on the newly-appointed defence secretary may be, it’s Fallon’s removal from the post that has seen wider debate as it potentially heralds further replacements.

A document was compiled by the government, listing the names of 36 MPs said to have behaved inappropriately. The complaints against them range from propositions to rape.

Of course, some have branded the list a thing of gossip, not to mention harassment in itself, suggesting it could lead to May’s downfall. However, the move to address these claims, alongside the voices of those in Hollywood, is what we need to put such behaviour to rest.

Indeed, the Standard hailed May’s approach as a “career-defining move,” one which could impact the behaviour of those within the business world as well, even if it is a risk on her part.

“The former defence secretary was – as he concedes – on the wrong end of another shift in culture, where sexual behaviour that was never appropriate but was tolerated is today completely unacceptable,” it said. “May has insisted certain standards of past behaviour are not consistent with membership of her government.

“If what looks like a strong stand now doesn’t descend into weakness tomorrow, then she will have to enforce that ruling whatever it means for other ministers in her government. As one very senior Conservative said privately: Fallon’s certainly won’t be the only resignation or dismissal. For a prime minister without authority or a majority, that is one hell of a political gamble.”

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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