The allegations of sexual misconduct that have rocked Hollywood, media, and Wall Street have now led to the resignation of a top national security official in the United Kingdom, one of America’s staunchest allies.
On Wednesday, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigned from his post, claiming that his past behavior didn’t meet his own “high standards.”
"A number of allegations have surfaced about MPs [Members of Parliament] in recent days, including some about my previous conduct,” he wrote in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Theresa May. “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 honour to represent."
The implications of this resignation go beyond accountability for sexual harassment: They highlight how May’s government is in disarray as it tries to remove the UK from the European Union.
Fallon admitted earlier this week to inappropriately touching the knee of journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer in 2002. Hartley-Brewer made light of the situation on Twitter, but says she doubts the knee touch was the reason for his resignation. Sources close to Fallon told the BBC he resigned because he couldn’t account for his past behavior over many decades in British politics. What was "acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now," Fallon told the BBC.
This morning, May named top British politician Gavin Williamson as the new defense chief. Fallon will still remain a member of Parliament.
Fallon is the first politician to quit his post following recently revealed claims of sexual harassment in the British Parliament. A total of 36 Conservative Party lawmakers were accused in separate allegations, and there are similar claims about at least one Labour Party member.
Britain is a top US ally — and it’s in political disarray
It’s no small thing that the United Kingdom’s defense minister is stepping down.
The UK is arguably America’s closest ally, the other half of the so-called “special relationship,” fighting alongside the US against ISIS in Iraq and Syria as well as in Afghanistan. That’s likely to continue even with a new defense minister.
But the country is also in the midst of a political crisis. After the UK voted to leave the European Union last year, May came to power promising to deliver that result. But she’s currently bungling the process. She called a snap election on June 8 to garner more support for Brexit — an election many expected her to win by gaining a clear mandate for Brexit in Parliament.
But the vote didn’t go as planned. May lost her overall majority, and now the country is in a political deadlock. May is now facing efforts by members of her own party to overthrow her from leadership. “You can’t just carry on when things aren’t working,” Grant Shapps, a former Conservative Party chair, told the BBC.
The resignation of a top cabinet official isn’t likely to restore much confidence.