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Gavin Williamson has been appointed defence secretary after the resignation of Sir Michael Fallon.

Mr Williamson is 24 years younger than Mr Fallon and was elected as an MP in 2010. In July 2016, he was appointed Chief Whip in Theresa May’s government.

He has previously received criticism from parliamentary authorities over bringing his pet tarantula Cronus to the Houses of Parliament.

Other potential candidates for the role were understood to be Tobias Ellwood, a defence minister and Penny Mordaunt, a pensions minister.

Yesterday Fallon left the government front bench, saying that his “behaviour in the past may have fallen short.”

Earlier in the month the Minister made front page news when it was revealed he had inappropriately touched journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer‘s knee during a dinner in 2002. Hartley-Brewer recalled that, after Fallon kept putting his hand on her knee, she “calmly and politely explained to him that, if he did it again, I would punch him in the face”.

Shortly after, on the 1st of November 2017, Fallon resigned due to “allegations…about my previous conduct”.

In his resignation letter to May, Fallon said:

“A number of allegations have surfaced about MPs in recent days, including some about my previous conduct.

Many of these have been false but I accept in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces that I have the honour to represent.

I have reflected on my position and I am now resigning as defence secretary.”

In her reply, the prime minister said:

“I appreciate the characteristically serious manner in which you have considered your position, and the particular example you wish to set to servicemen and women and others.”

 

49 COMMENTS

  1. Clearly the resignation of Fallon is due to what is yet to come out, but will. He has preempted it.

    I wish Mr Williamson well.

    I have also read of Penny Mordaunt before and hope she gets a more prominent role back at MoD at some point.

    Ideally the Defence Secretary should have some recent military background in my humble opinion.

    • why this man? what does he bring to the table on matters of defence?i hope he’s not another nodding dog for the treasury.

  2. I too wish him well, it’s going to being difficult managing the conflicting defence proirites given the tight fiscal pressures.

    Having no military experience may be of political benefit given the defence cuts that around the corner.

  3. I am a bit disappointed Harriet Baldwin did not get the job as have been impressed with her. Lets hope that Mr Williamson has the power to stop the rot and get funding allocated to the MOD from the DFID budget to fund an improved RFA/Humanitarian aid service.

    Hopefully he also reads this site and prioritise the following:

    1. Budget of £45bn p.a.
    2. Integrated Single Force Structure – with a reduction in senior leadership and duplication of roles.
    3. 25 year fleet management plan and equipment schedule (Land, Air and Sea)
    4. Forces welfare and support
    5. Creating a defence strategy built around government requirements and commitments and not budget.

    Sounds simple – but actually he has his hands full.

    • Agree with all of this save item 2 Pacman. I do not agree with your ORBATS at the end of it but this seems logical.

    • “5. Creating a defence strategy built around government requirements and commitments and not budget.”

      The government determines the requirements/commitments and gives the military a budget for it, then they try to fit it in.

      • This should have happened a very long time ago…especially those who appear in their plumed hats at every function where a free feed and “drinkies” are to be had.

    • I think Humanitarian aid service you should be backed tracked considering we are going to lose amphibiouse ships because the MOD have lost the plot

      • The budget is scheduled to be £40bn by 2020 and is often cited at anywhere between £34bn pa and £42bn p.a.

        Yes I am looking for an increase in the region of 10% – but the reality is that without a budget around 2.5% of GDP the govt need to stop acting as if we are a world power and scale back their aspirations accordingly.

        I agree it is unlikely to happen – but that is whats needed and as the new defence secretary he has to do what is right by his dept, not anyone elses.

        https://www.gov.uk/government/news/defence-budget-increases-for-the-first-time-in-six-years

        • I also think we need to increase UK equipment purchase post Brexit to stimulate the economy. We subsidise the car manufacturing industry in the UK, why not the military aligned manufacturing industries and R&D.

  4. Not the best time to come into this job with the mini SDSR going on, rumours of cuts, and a budget around the corner. Good luck Gavin, wish you all the best and hope you can champion the cause.

  5. Fallon has fallen…

    Good luck to the new Defence Secretary. Yes, it would be nice to have someone with recent military experience. That is an area where the US system has, in my opinion, an advantage, as the US president can appoint whom he or she wishes to the role subject to approval from Congress, enabling senior retired military officers to be chosen, whereas our PM is limited to MPs for his or her selection. Nonetheless, I am prepared to wait and see how the new DS shapes up. After all, we have given Fallon some stick on this site, so we have kind of gotten what we have wished for.

    • It looks as though she has chosen the person she trusts. Not least on the basis that there will be allegations coming out over the coming weeks about other cabinet members, she just cannot afford to appoint someone only to find they are the subject of allegations themselves.

      Mind you the easiest way to guarantee that (well almost) would have been to appoint a woman, Penny Mordaunt perhaps.

  6. I hate to be a killjoy here, but the appointment by Mrs May of her chief whip to Mr Fallon’s post shows that her main task – ahead of the upcoming Budget – has been to maintain internal Tory party equilibrium, not to necessarily do what’s best for the Armed Services.

    Mind you, Mr Fallon has come in for a lot of unjustified (IMHO) criticism from some on this site and whoever the UK gets as Defence Secretary faces the same hard questions on spending with limited room for manoeuvre – so forget about ending Overseas Aid.

    All that being said, I wish Mr Williamson well

    • A sober post. A more jaundiced view of the Leadsom ‘ revelations’ would be to ask whether the new Tory party defence policy is to make the country a laughing stock.

  7. His qualifications for the job appear to be
    (1) He supported Remain in the EU referendum
    (2) He was Theresa May’s campaign manager in her bid to be leader of the Conservative Party
    This does not bode well for the MoD.

      • And to Rob:
        3) Please can we at least here not fall into the ‘Social Media’ trap of casting blame for reasons that are totally irrelevant. Because someone may be an ‘old duffer’ does not make them a sexual predator. And neither does it because they are male, an MP, English or whatever.
        8 of the current Cabinet are female for example.
        It is a fact of life that to gain life experience of many years you are obviously of ‘a certain age’. But 12 (now) of the Cabinet are under 50 years old while 10 are older than 50.
        Hardly too many ‘old duffers’ by any stretch. And I speak as a 70 year old ‘duffer’.

        • oh come off it Chris – I was hardly saying everyone of a certain age is like that and I did say “many of the current cabinet” not all of them. Lighten up man.

          You have to admit though that the majority of people who get accused of this kind of behaviour are indeed male and are not youngsters.

          • Rob – So I guess the immediate reaction to that is a) define ‘this kind of behaviour’ and b) define ‘youngsters’

            Now when Fallon allegedly touched that lady’s knee it was 15 years ago (this kind of behaviour?) and he would have been 45 (not a youngster but hardly an old duffer). Now the lady herself believes it was not a resigning matter but according to the Chatterati feminists (like Harriet Harman on ‘This Week 10 minutes ago) everyone is at it and all these evil men must be weeded out. Regardless of innocence. And this is the dangerous ground we are now on. People like Harman want an ‘anonymous’ system where anyone can make an accusation and the person concerned is dismissed. I always thought we were innocent until proven guilty or we admitted wrongdoing. Apparently we are now in a different rather liberal leftie PC culture of accepting everyone’s word as gospel even if it was 30 years ago.

            Men are reluctant to go into teaching precisely because in these days of Political Correctness they are considered liable to be paedophiles before they even start. In the same way good honest hard working MPs will now leave rather than fall prey to avenging women who they maybe sacked or failed to promote or even spurned amorous advances from (yes women can be predators as well). And more good men will say ‘to hell with politics’ for the same reasons.

            That is a worrying thing for our democracy.

    • Marcus –
      1) A totally irrelevant comment given the Government’s declared policy to leave the EU in March 2019
      2) No he wasn’t because there was no campaign given Leadsom did the right thing and called off her challenge
      And therefore I cannot see how it bodes well or otherwise for the MoD.

      • Its a comment on how Mrs May has picked her new Defence Minister. Its not because he has shown any interest in Defence, its because she see him as someone loyal to her and her views. His biography doesn’t even mention Defence, he has done some work outside politics but essentially he’s a career politician.

        • Marcus – ever thought that maybe someone who has successfully navigated his Party through turbulent parliamentary times, knows how the system works and who to trust (and go to) is actually the better choice for what is a very political role? For sure he ‘has the PM’s ear’ and that can only be a good thing for the military. He does not have to be a military tactician he has to be a political tactician and as Chief Whip he was bloody good at doing just that.

          He will have very experienced military people around him but he is there mainly as the political head of the military. And as someone else pointed out if you have a specific military history (say in the Navy) then some others (like in the Army) might take that as a bias against them … He doesn’t carry that baggage.

  8. Given the lack of commentary by Gavin Williamson on defence, all we can do is wait and see what he first says, then on what he does. What is the point in doubting the man before he has said or done anything regarding defence. All that does is further the negative attitude that pervades this and other sites comments sections. Just give the man a chance, then disagree with him if you don’t like what he says and does. just give him a chance.

    • Agreed Ian – and I fear nothing will happen. Have a funny feeling he will be a ‘Yes’ man and will not stand up to the Treasury.

      That said, it’s only fair we give him a chance to see what he can do lest we judge him unfairly.

  9. Has this May patsy ever taken the Queen’s Shilling ?

    I am also disappointed that Penny didnt get the gig; she would have fought hard for the RN. But perhaps she didnt want it because she knows what’s coming…..

  10. Judging her purely on her speeches and public interviews while junior defence minister, Penny Morduant was, and is, a prize idiot.

  11. US Secretary of Defense – James Norman Mattis 4st.General USMC Ret.
    Russia Minister of Defense – Sergey Shoygu 4st.General Army Active.
    PRC Minister of National Defense – Chang Wanquan 4st.General Army Active
    UK Secretary of State for Defence – Gavin Williamson pottery business and MP.
    France Minister of Armed Forces – Florence Parly airline executive
    Well at least Mr.Williamson has the longest of the titles. However he seems massively out of depth compared to the other permanent security council members defense secretaries except for France’s but at least she is older.

    • Elliott – I think we should not take too much significance from Russia and China whose systems are hardly democratic.
      So that leaves the USA and yes Mattis is a distinguished military man. But:
      Ash Carter – An academic and Professor at Harvard
      Chuck Hagel – Served in the US Army for 2 years in the ’60s and then Investment Banker before politics
      Leon Panetta – Served for 2 years in the US Army from ’64 before politics
      Robert Gates – served 2 years in the US Air Force in the ’60s on secondment from the CIA
      Donald Rumsfeld – Served 3 years in the US Navy from ’54and than as a reservist until ’89
      William Cohen – A Lawyer before politics

      I am trying to make the point that apart from Mattis the military service of the previous 6 SoS was not that great and to some extent proves the point that to be a good SoS of Defense you don’t need to have had a long military career.

      As I say elsewhere that military career can bring baggage if you are seen to favour the branch in which you served. Here in the UK the need is for political ability more than military experience (although as I show above we have very experienced ex service people in the Conservative party, less so in the others) and indeed Sir Michael Fallon had no military experience but was seen as one of the better SoS.

      • Might point was knowledge of subject matter of the appointees. Years of service doesn’t tell the full story for instance all those I mentioned in the US had heavily defense or foreign oriented careers.
        Cohen – Senate Armed Services Committee 1979-97 authored or contributed to numerous defense acts.
        Rumsfeld – Probably the most pompous of the group. Though addition to his military service foreign diplomatic experience and a reasonabley successful CEO in the private sector.
        Gates – Decades in the CIA with vast experience in South America and the Middle East.
        Panetta – Unquestionably unqualified but President Obama was looking for a stooge who wouldn’t make noise about defense cuts. Didn’t work he squawked and got fired.
        Chuck Hagel – Sergeant Infantry Vietnam then successful entrepreneur and investor. Also fired for opposing cuts. President Obama misinterpreted his statements on “paring down the bloated defense department” as wanting to cut the budget. In reality Hagel was only in favor of firing bureaucrats and tightening contract penalties.
        Ash Carter

  12. Just remember guys – he can make cuts and lose no political capital at all. Be afraid of those who want to please their patron.
    Defence is never that big on the agenda, stand by for big announcements on housing, education and health.
    What would rock the boat though, when the review is announced, is Would J Mercer cross the floor – he is having a rough time down in Plymouth at the moment (home of the Corps and Amphibious Fleet) constantly being prodded by the noisy MP for Plymouth Devonport.
    Unless he is a serial knee toucher the whips office have nothing on him.

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