A Government Minister’s career was hanging in the balance last night after he admitted bombarding a young female aide with suggestive phone messages.
Ivan Lewis, a 41-year-old Health Minister, issued a statement apologising for sending dozens of mobile phone text messages to Susie Mason, a 24-year-old assistant who worked in his private office in Whitehall.
After complaining to her bosses, Ms Mason was moved to a different job before resigning from the Civil Service to join an accountancy firm.
Apologetic: Ivan Lewis with estranged wife Juliette
‘He was obviously attracted to Susie, but his behaviour went well beyond acceptable office boundaries,’ a Whitehall source said.
‘It wasn’t just one or two messages - there were dozens, and the content was over-familiar. This must have spooked her enormously.’
It is understood the incident was reported to officials at the Cabinet Office at the time but no action was taken against Mr Lewis.
A Department of Health spokesman confirmed last night: ‘In 2007 a member of staff in the private office of Ivan Lewis informed her managers that she was unhappy with the nature of her working relationship with the Minister.
‘The situation was handled professionally and sensitively in full accordance with the employee’s wishes. She raised no formal complaint against the Minister and all the actions to resolve the matter were agreed with her. It was in that context that the decision was taken at the time not to pursue the matter further.
‘At her request she left the Minister’s office and was given another job in the department. She was a hard-working, extremely competent employee and we were sad to see her subsequently leave the department. The Minister in question apologises unreservedly.’
Aide Susie Mason, as pictured on her profile on the Facebook website
The revelation is the latest blow to Gordon Brown’s attempt to mount an autumn relaunch for his beleaguered administration, and evokes echoes of the way economic distress and sexual scandal combined to bring down John Major’s Government.
At the time Mr Lewis was making his unwelcome overtures in early 2007, he was approaching 40 and had just left his wife of 16 years, Juliette, and their two sons for a 50-year-old married councillor in his Bury constituency.
He separated from his wife in June 2006 after meeting Margaret Gibb at local political meetings. The relationship with Mrs Gibb is also believed to have now broken down.
Ms Mason, a slim, attractive brunette who is now 25, was appointed as one of Mr Lewis’s two Assistant Private Secretaries (APS) after he became a Minister at the Department of Health in May 2006.
After Ms Mason made her complaint, she was moved to a slightly more junior position elsewhere in the department before being offered a job of equivalent status to an APS, which lies near the bottom of the Civil Service career ladder but is regarded as a stepping stone to fast promotion.