British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon abruptly resigned on Wednesday, admitting that his conduct in the past had fallen below high standards. It followed reports about an incident in which he placed his hand on a woman’s knee.
Fallon, a Conservative lawmaker who has served as Secretary of State for Defense for more than three years, wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May that he had been the subject of allegations about his previous conduct.
“Many of these have been false but I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the Armed Forces that I have the honor to represent,” Fallon said in the letter. “I have reflected on my position and I am therefore resigning as Defense Secretary.”
Fallon provided no details about the allegations against him, but his resignation comes just days after a tabloid newspaper reported that Fallon had repeatedly touched a journalist’s knee during a dinner in 2002, but the woman in question downplayed the incident and insisted that she was not a victim.
The BBC reported that Fallon is not facing additional allegations, but Tom Newton Dunn – a journalist for The Sun newspaper – reported that Fallon decided to resign after telling Prime Minister May that he couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be more stories.
Fallon has served as a member of parliament for Sevenoaks since 1997, and prior to that served as an MP for Darlington from 1983 until 1992. His letter to the prime minister indicated that he does not plan to resign from parliament.
Julia Hartley-Brewer, the woman involved in the 2002 incident, said Fallon repeatedly put his hand on her knee during a party conference dinner. “I calmly and politely explained to him that, if he did it again, I would ‘punch him in the face.’ He withdrew his hand and that was the end of the matter,” she said.
But Hartley-Brewer said she had no further issues with Fallon and she described the incident as “mildly amusing” in a statement released on Monday. “I have not been a victim and I don’t wish to take part in what I believe has now become a Westminster witch hunt,” she said.
In an interview with Sky News, Hartley-Brewer said she was shocked about the resignation, but noted that there had been rumors about possible further allegations against Fallon.
“I absolutely didn’t expect it. I don’t think I can repeat on Sky News the words I actually used at home when I got the first call about this. I’m incredibly shocked,” she said. “If this is over Kneegate, and him touching my knees 15 years ago, me not having any issue with this today, then this is the most insane and absurd and ridiculous resignation of a Cabinet minister ever in the history of the world.”
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