Gavin Williamson’s emergency appointment as UK Defence Secretary has received a mixed reception. As the Prime Minister’s Chief Whip he is probably the gatekeeper of all the (Tory sex scandal and otherwise) secrets. Perhaps this put him in a strong position with Prime Minister Theresa May. It has even been suggested that it was Williamson that leaked the damaging spreadsheet of alleged accusations against Tory politicians. Nick Timothy, the previous Chief of Staff tweeted that May really rates Williamson, but many have been surprised that Penny Mordant, Harriet Baldwin, Tobias Ellwood, Rory Stewart and Philip Dunne have been overlooked, all of whom have more relevant experience. Overall, the appointment is deemed unpopular. It seems that the little loyalty the Prime Minister had left is weakened, the consequences of which are unpredictable; the rumours of a larger reshuffle have amounted to nothing. One Conservative source said, “Without a leader putting party interest first, you have MPs putting self- interest first.”

Williamson is a Cameronite from the 2010 intake, he is known as a forensic networker and strategic opportunist; highlights of his fast track political career include three years as David Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary, acting as Theresa May’s campaign manager and as Chief Whip signing the final deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which gave Theresa May the edge in forming government, in June 2017.

Williamson’s pet, Tarantula Cronus.

There are tests ahead for Williamson in his new role. MP Johnny Mercer is leading a campaign to increase the still-capped pay levels of the armed forces; Williamson will have to battle with the treasury for substantial increases in defence funding to cover existing commitments and make future ones; he will be meeting James Mattis, a Secretary of State with superior military experience, and other Defence Ministers at the North Atlantic Council in Brussels next week.

Williamson is often referred to as “the assassin”. He keeps his pet tarantula Cronus on his desk, he seems to have turned Westminster into a hybrid of House of Cards and Hogwarts. There will be good viewing ahead as he settles into his seat at the top table.

 

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