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Gavin Williamson replaces Michael Fallon as UK defence secretary

World Materials 2 November 2017 17:39 (UTC +04:00)
Theresa May has promoted Gavin Williamson, her trusted chief whip, to the job of defence secretary to fill the role vacated after Sir Michael Fallon resigned on Wednesday over allegations of sexual harassment
Gavin Williamson replaces Michael Fallon as UK defence secretary

Theresa May has promoted Gavin Williamson, her trusted chief whip, to the job of defence secretary to fill the role vacated after Sir Michael Fallon resigned on Wednesday over allegations of sexual harassment, the guardian reports.

Williamson, 41, the MP for South Staffordshire, has been responsible for maintaining discipline within the prime minister’s fractious parliamentary party since last year.

Fallon stepped down on Wednesday night, admitting that his conduct towards women in the past had fallen short of the standards expected of the armed forces, of which he was in charge.

Julian Smith, the MP for Skipton and Ripon, who previously served as Williamson’s deputy, has been appointed to replace him as chief whip.

The new deputy chief whip will be Esther McVey, who won George Osborne’s former seat of Tatton in June. She was a Conservative junior minister in the coalition government of 2010-15, before losing her Wirral West seat.

Williamson was closely involved in negotiating the confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist party that secured the parliamentary support May needed to govern in the aftermath of June’s general election.

It was Williamson and Gavin Barwell, May’s chief of staff at No 10, collectively known as “the chiefs”, who were called in by the prime minister last week as she discussed how to handle the growing sexual harassment scandal.

Many Conservative MPs were surprised by Williamson’s rapid promotion, at a time when party discipline is key to the smooth operation of the government. One senior backbencher described it as: “Unbelievable. Ludicrous. Astonishing.”

Some Conservative MPs even suggest May might have made an agreement with Williamson that she will anoint him as her preferred successor once the Brexit talks are completed.

“I thought the secret of naked ambition was not to make it so obvious,” said one former minister.

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