May picks chief whip for defence role following exit of Fallon over harassment claims, a choice MPs attack as ‘ludicrous’
Theresa May has promoted Gavin Williamson, her 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.
But some Conservative MPs raised concerns his appointment, arguing that 41 year old MP for South Staffordshire had been promoted too quickly and lacked the experience for the high profile post.
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Fallon had 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.
Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, tweeted:
There are times when offered a job that it would be better to advise that another would be more experienced & suited to the role
— Sarah Wollaston (@sarahwollaston) November 2, 2017
The prime minister’s spokesman insisted: “Gavin Williamson was an excellent and hard-working chief whip and the PM is certain he will make an excellent defence secretary.”
Read More @ theguardian
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