Gavin Williamson named new Defence Secretary after Sir Michael Fallon resigns over sexual harassment allegations

The former chief whip is seen as one of Prime Minister Theresa May's most loyal allies

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 02 November 2017 11:35
Who is new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson?

Gavin Williamson has been named as the new Defence Secretary after Sir Michael Fallon resigned amid the growing Westminster sexual harassment scandal.

Mr Williamson was Theresa May's chief whip before his move to the Ministry of Defence was announced and is seen as one of her most dependable lieutenants.

His appointment comes as a surprise, and appeared to be criticised by one backbencher, with other junior ministers' names having been circulated in advance. It also means Ms May must find a new parliamentary enforcer.

Mr Williamson's appointment will keep the critical 'Brexit balance' of the Cabinet, as like Sir Michael he backed the remain campaign during the EU referendum in 2016.

Ms May will be glad to have a trusted ally in one of the big Cabinet jobs, but Mr Williamson's appointment was not met with unanimous approval after senior backbencher Sarah Wollaston MP suggested soon after that others might be better "suited".

She said: "There are times when offered a job that it would be better to advise that another would be more experienced & suited to the role."

Michael Fallon announces resignation as Defence Secretary

Another minister is said to have complained that the appointment exposed Ms May's weakness, adding: "She has let Williamson appoint himself."

Chief whip's usually have a central role in reshuffles, buyt Downing Street said on Thursday that Mr Williamson had not been involved this time.

A spokesman said: "Gavin Williamson was an excellent and hardworking chief whip and the Prime Minister thinks he will make an excellent Defence Secretary."

Mr Fallon became the first major scalp claimed by the growing Westminster sexual harassment scandal, resigning from his cabinet job amid expected further allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The ex-defence secretary admitted that in the past his actions fell “below the high standards” required of the armed forces he represented.

Former chief whip Mr Williamson was previously close to David Cameron as his parliamentary aide, and when the former Prime Minister stood down is reported to have made it his mission to stop Boris Johnson's leadership bid.

It is said that led him to back Theresa May's candidacy, and within 24 hours of Mr Williamson joining her team, the future PM is said to have offered him the post of parliamentary campaign manager.

Mr Williamson was also central to the Conservative effort to seal a deal with the DUP after the party lost its majority in the June election.

The new Defence Secretary ​was born in Scarborough on June 25 1976 and educated at Raincliffe School, a comprehensive, followed by Scarborough Sixth Form College and the University of Bradford, where he read social sciences.

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