An air of crisis hung over the government. Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, was told to fly back immediately from Africa after a series of secret meetings with Israeli political figures was revealed. Sir Michael Fallon had already gone as Defence Secretary, to be replaced by someone called Gavin Williamson, an MP since 2010 and Chief Whip since last year. Sir Michael’s departure followed a complaint that Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, was said to have made to the Prime Minister about a remark some years ago — when she had said she had cold hands, he said: ‘I know where you can put them to warm them up.’
So many claims of sexual impropriety at Westminster flew about that it became hard to focus on any one of the starlings in the murmuration. Bob Quick, a former assistant commissioner of the Met, told a newspaper that police found pornography on a computer in the parliamentary office of Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, during a raid to investigate leaks in 2008; Mr Green this week called the claims ‘false, disreputable political smears from a discredited police officer’. Carl Sargeant, who was sacked as Labour cabinet secretary on communities and children in the Welsh Assembly and was suspended from the party after allegations about his conduct, was understood to have killed himself. A woman denounced Clive Lewis MP because, in a public room during the Labour Party conference, ‘we had a hug and while we were having a hug he gave my bum a big squeeze’. Professor Tariq Ramadan, under investigation in France over two allegations of rape, took leave of absence from Oxford University. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, called for a ‘new culture of respect’.