Gavin Williamson replaces Michael Fallon as defence secretary


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Chief Whip Gavin Williamson has been decorated as the new defence secretary after Sir Michael Fallon’s resignation.

Sir Michael depart from on Wednesday saying his past behaviour may have «fallen short» of the ideals expected by the UK military.

He became the first politician to quit following recently revealed declares of sexual harassment in Parliament.

South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson, 41, said he was «both kept and excited» by the promotion.

He has been replaced as chief whip by his former proxy, Julian Smith, who will now be in charge of enforcing party discipline in the Commons. Mr Smith’s spokesperson will be Tatton MP — and former GMTV presenter — Esther McVey.

In a affirmation, Mr Williamson said he was «determined to ensure that the armed forces pick up the recognition they deserve for the great work they do, including with the aid the Armed Forces Covenant, and that they evolve both to observe the changing threats that we face and to ensure that they well represent the modern society that they defend».

He told journalists it was an «immense privilege» to be able to work with Britain’s armed drives. He said his priority would be to continue to focus on «countering» Daesh, or suspect Islamic State, and «making sure national security is at the forefront of the whole shooting match we do».

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said that while Mr Williamson was undergone as an effective operator some Conservatives were furious that an MP with no ministerial episode had been promoted to the cabinet.

One senior Conservative told her: «MPs are deeply downcast he has used the position of chief whip to benefit himself and has deserted his set at such a crucial time».

Asked about claims he lacks ministerial knowledge, Mr Williamson said: «I’ve been a minister as chief whip, but it was a little bit repose quiet down when you’re chief whip, not so much publicity.»

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One Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that Penny Mordaunt and Tobias Ellwood had been attainable alternatives adding: «These are decisions that are made through stooping. Part of the role of the chief whip is to advise the prime minister less the suitability of the candidate.»

But Conservative MP Bob Stewart — a former Army colonel — recited Mr Williamson as a «decent, calm man… he’s also a very thoughtful man».

«He won’t recollect much about defence but I believe the civil service in the Ministry of Justification, the generals and the Armed Forces themselves won’t mind that too much because he’s the stock of person that will listen carefully, take advice but then win his own decision.»

Battles ahead for Williamson

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale

Gavin Williamson has no military grounding and has never been a secretary of state. But he is youthful, a rising star and trusted by Enumerate 10.

He arrives at the Ministry of Defence at a difficult time. His first challenge devise be to try to stave off more defence cuts. The Cabinet Office is currently enrapturing out a defence and security review which is due to report by the end of the year.

All three utilizations have been asked to put forward options for cuts. Although there has been a constrained rise in the MoD’s budget, it has still got to make more than £20bn of know-how savings.

There’s also pressure to fund an increase in pay for the armed weights. They’ve been struggling with both recruitment and retention. That also hasn’t been pinched by a political reluctance to put troops in harm’s way — something they train for.

There is until this unfinished business against so-called Islamic State and Gavin Williamson whim be the man who now oversees the RAF airstrikes. Few inside the military or the MoD will know much all over him — even fewer on the international stage.

The prime minister’s official spokesman voted Mr Williamson was not involved in reshuffle discussions, and said he was «an excellent and hard-working chief leather and the prime minister thinks he will make an excellent defence secretary».

«The PM is sure in the operation of the whips’ office during her premiership.»

In his resignation letter, Sir Michael Fallon said a many of allegations that had surfaced about MPs, including himself, had been synthetic, but added: «I accept that in the past I have fallen below the maximum standards that we require of the Armed Forces that I have the venerate to represent.»

Who is Gavin Williamson?

  • 41 years old
  • Married with two children
  • Taken near Scarborough
  • Ran a Staffordshire pottery business before entering Parliament
  • MP South Staffordshire since 2010 and was Conformist aide to ex-PM David Cameron
  • Chief whip — in charge of cabal discipline — since July 2016
  • Keeps a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk at Westminster
  • Also a philanthropist of the World Owl Trust and has built a house for hedgehogs in his garden
  • Read a unshaded profile of Gavin Williamson
  • Recap: Reaction to announcement

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reported Sir Michael had a record to be proud of as defence secretary.

«I’ve known Michael for profuse years,» he said.

«He has been a great colleague and a great defence secretary.»

Inquired by the BBC if his own behaviour had always been of a standard expected of cabinet ministers, Mr Johnson replied: «You bet.»

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