Damian Green: a close political ally of PM, but caught up in a scandal

Damian Green is one of Theresa May’s closest political allies and the man credited with putting her shattered team back together again after the Tories’ disastrous general election campaign.

Green, who was work and pensions secretary, was elevated to first secretary of state and touted as the man May felt she could trust the most, after the departure of her close aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.

Green went to Oxford with May in the 1970s and he served in the Home Office under her until he was sacked by David Cameron.

But it was several years earlier that his feud began with the former most senior counterterrorism officer Bob Quick, which formed a key plank of the Cabinet Office investigation into Green by Sue Gray.

Green’s other close ally in the cabinet is David Davis, who was shadow home secretary in 2006, when Green was a shadow minister. Davis was approached by a Tory-voting civil servant working in the Home Office under Labour, who said he was prepared to leak damaging information to the Tories.

The documents, which were handled by Green, made headlines in the Daily Mail, the Sunday Telegraph and other papers. The Cabinet Office called in Scotland Yard to investigate, with Quick, an assistant commissioner, assigned to the job.

The civil servant, Christopher Galley, was pinpointed as the source and Quick was advised that he may have committed misconduct in a public office. Galley and Green were arrested in 2008 and police raided his parliamentary office, which caused huge political controversy.

Green’s lawyers argued that the material seized in the search, including that discovered on his computers, was covered by parliamentary privilege.

As recriminations flew within the Met about the handling of the case, Quick publicly accused the Tories of trying to undermine his investigation into Green and “acting in a wholly corrupt way”. He also accused them of briefing stories about his private business interests in the Mail on Sunday, which the party denied. Quick stepped down four months later over a separate embarrassing security leak.

The whole matter lay dormant until this year. Meanwhile, Green became a minister under Cameron, though he lost his post in 2014. When May became prime minister, he was made secretary of state for work and pensions and then first secretary, May’s de-facto deputy.

However, in the autumn, the shockwaves of the Harvey Weinstein scandal were reverberating in Westminster. Kate Maltby, who is 30 years younger than Green, described in an article in the Times how she believed Green appeared to solicit sex from her in exchange for political mentoring.

The Conservative activist said she met Green in a Waterloo pub, where she said the MP offered to help her take steps towards becoming a candidate. She alleged that Green had touched her knee during the meeting, as he mentioned that his own wife was “very understanding”.

Maltby described a conversation where Green repeatedly mentioned the extramarital affairs of acquaintances, then she said she “felt a fleeting hand against my knee – so brief it was almost deniable”.

The activist said she avoided Green after their encounter but, in 2016, subsequently wrote a piece for the Times where she was pictured wearing a corset. Green then texted her unprompted, she said, saying: “Long time no see. But having admired you in a corset in my favourite tabloid, I feel impelled to ask if you are free for a drink anytime?”

After the message from Green, Maltby said she did not reply but that day she privately messaged a number of friends expressing concern, including an Evening Standard journalist who published the messages earlier this month.

After the article was published, he said the meeting was “two friends agreeing to meet for a regular catchup – and nothing more ... This untrue allegation has come as a complete shock and is deeply hurtful, especially from someone I considered a personal friend”. Maltby declined to comment before the investigation was concluded.

The Cabinet Office launched an investigation into Green, but more revelations then came in the Sunday Times, which published allegations by Quick that “extreme pornography” had been found on his parliamentary computer in 2008.

Neil Lewis, the former Scotland Yard officer who examined the computer, then also told the BBC that the internet history on the device showed pornography had been viewed extensively.

Green claimed he was the victim of an “unscrupulous character assassination” and said the claims amounted to “false, disreputable political smears from a discredited police officer acting in flagrant breach of his duty to keep the details of police investigations confidential”.

The investigation has been ongoing for seven weeks, during which time both Quick and Maltby have come under fire in the press.

Davis, now the Brexit secretary, is said to have privately let it be known that he would resign in protest were Green to be forced out based on Quick’s allegations alone.

The inquiry also examined whether allies of the first secretary of state influenced a piece by the Mail’s Andrew Pierce that called Maltby “one very pushy lady” and said she was “determined to make it in politics – whatever the cost”.

The piece, which drew significant criticism after it was published, suggested Maltby’s parents were “aghast at what she had done” by accusing Green, which she denies. Her supporters have suggested that influencing the article would be a breach of the ministerial code.

Quick has come under fire for his role in the unfolding scandal, prompting Cressida Dick, the Met’s commissioner, to say that former officers who speak out about investigations could face prosecution.

The former officer has in turn threatened legal action against Green for “deeply hurtful attempts to discredit me.”

After the report was released, finding that Green breached the ministerial code for “inaccurate and misleading” denials about the presence of pornography on his computer, May asked her close ally to resign.

The letter May sent accepting his resignation acknowledged their personal history, commending his “great wisdom, good sense and a commitment to helping the most vulnerable”.

“I am extremely sad to be writing this letter,” she wrote. “We have been friends and colleagues throughout our whole political lives – from our early days at university, entering the House of Commons at the same election and serving alongside each other both in opposition and in government.”

The report found Maltby’s account “plausible” but said it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion with competing accounts of a private meeting.

In her reply to Green, May said everyone who “wants to play their part in our political life should feel able to do so – without fear of harassment and knowing they can speak out if they need to”.

The Conservative party is still engulfed in several unresolved disputes about sexual harrassment. Junior trade minister Mark Garnier is, like Green, being investigated by the Cabinet Office after he admitted asking his former assistant to buy sex toys.

Several other MPs are also still under investigation. Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and Daniel Kawczynski, who represents Shrewsbury, have been referred to the Conservative party’s internal body after complaints were made against them. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Another Tory MP, Charlie Elphicke, has been suspended by the party following serious allegations that have been passed to the police. Elphicke said he had not been informed of the nature of the allegations.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jessica Elgot Political reporter, for The Guardian on Wednesday 20th December 2017 22.03 Europe/London

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