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New UK defense minister named after sex scandal resignation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
UK Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip Gavin Williamson walks in Downing Street in London on September 7, 2017. ( AFP photo)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has named Gavin Williamson as Britain's new defense secretary after his predecessor Michael Fallon was forced to resign over a sexual harassment scandal sweeping Westminster.

The announcement on Thursday represents a significant promotion for Williamson, who was only elected to the UK Parliament in 2010.

Williamson’s former job as chief whip in the House of Commons involved enforcing discipline for May's Conservative Party in the Parliament. He was May's parliamentary campaign manager when she successfully ran to become Conservative Party leader.

The job is one of the biggest and most challenging in the British government, and some questioned the 41-year-old's experience.

Williamson has asked only seven questions on military affairs since 2010, according to "TheyWorkForYou", an online record of parliamentary activity.

Fallon announced his resignation on Wednesday, the first casualty of a deepening sexual harassment crisis at Westminster.

Fallon apologized earlier in the week for touching a female journalist's knee in 2002, but reports suggest there were other sexual harassment allegations which had not yet been made public.

Fallon admitted that his "previous conduct" had "fallen below the high standards" after he was reportedly accused of grabbing the leg of a female journalist.

"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,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of women and men in the US and UK have recently been coming forward to share encounters of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, including in the media and entertainment industries and the realm of politics.

A survey by the BBC released last week found that 53 percent of women and 20 percent of men in the UK said they were sexually harassed at work or a place of study.

Similarly, a new poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that 48 percent of female workers in the US said they had personally experienced sexual harassment at work.

Recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has led to an avalanche of complaints against other high-profile men in a variety of industries.

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