Gavin Williamson had too many enemies
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Here in Westminster, Gavin Williamson has become the first minister to resign from Rishi Sunak’s government, dealing a blow to the prestige of the new Prime Minister. Some thoughts on this below.
To Gav and bend
Gavin Williamson left government for one simple reason: too many enemies. Most of these haters were those of Williamson, acquired during his long tenure both as an “official” parliamentary fixer – as David Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary and Theresa May’s chief whip – and as a “no official”, as the parliamentary wrangler of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak during their leadership bids in 2019 and 2022 respectively.
First, Wendy Morton filed a formal complaint about her behavior. While details of his WhatsApp swearing exchange with Morton ended up in The Times, another, Nicky Morgan, slammed Williamson on TalkTVclaiming it was “entirely believable” that Williamson had threatened another female MP with details of her private life.
Williamson’s former assistant during her tenure as chief whip, Anne Milton, gave an interview to Channel 4 detailing his love of “dirty gossip”. A former civil servant from his time at the Ministry of Defense says Pippa Crerar of the Guardian that Williamson had told them to “cut their throats” and “jump out the window”.
It’s not hard to see why Williamson resigned, saying the allegations swirling around him are a “distraction” from the government’s good work. A big part of the problem for him is that he was just good enough at the dirty part of the job of chief whip to have made a lot of enemies, but not good enough at the dirty part of the job to have scared the people. complete silence.
But the other person with too many enemies is former Williamson boss Rishi Sunak. The other person to report on Williamson’s excesses is Jake Berry, whom Sunak fired as party chairman and who reported on both the details of the Williamson-Morton complaint, as well as the violation of the safety of Suella Braverman. During the first Conservative leadership election of 2022, Berry said of Sunak “he says one thing and does another” and he is, so far, the most vocal of the backbench critics of Sunak.
Why did Sunak name him in the first place? In large part, Williamson was appointed for the same reason that Mark Harper (former Chief Whip, now Transport Secretary) and Andrew Mitchell (former Chief Whip, now International Development Minister) are there, and for the same reason faction leaders such as Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer are still around. Sunak leads a hectic party and needs all the help he can get. He also needs as few well-organized opponents as possible on the back benches. The big question isn’t “why did Sunak appoint Williamson?” it’s “why the hell didn’t he find space for Morton and for Berry?”
That said, much of the briefing and maneuvering against Sunak is incredibly self-defeating: whatever his limitations as a politician (and recent events have done nothing to weaken Janan Ganesh’s position convincing verdict on our new prime minister as far as I’m concerned), he remains the Conservative Party’s best hope of winning — or even surviving — the next election. It remains to be seen whether the Conservative party’s instinct for self-preservation is strong enough to be remembered by enough party members.
Now try this
David Butler, the eminent scholar and in many ways the father of psephology – the modern study of elections – has died aged 98, his biographer Michael Crick has reported. If you grew up in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s, he will have been a regular on election night television.
In addition to his enormous contribution to the field of public understanding of politics, Butler was a very kind man, who most graciously gave time to sporadic young reporters with a number of tedious questions.
I know I usually put something non-political in this slot, but today I recommend watching Sixty years of swingthe BBC documentary on election night programming, which features stunning archival footage of Butler.
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