Poetic justice: Sacked UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told to go away & shut up
There’s a certain poetry to the end of Gavin Williamson’s time as defence secretary, as Prime Minister Theresa May told him to go away and shut up.
You’ll remember that’s how Williamson announced himself on the world diplomatic stage, by telling Russia to “go away and shut up.” It was an unconventional approach, and it actually set the tone pretty nicely for what was to come, which was a series of mishaps which suggested a man high on self-regard, but low on self-awareness. That’s a formidable skill set in any politician, but in the end he pushed his luck too far.
It’s alleged he leaked classified information to a newspaper on the government’s approach to allowing Chinese tech giant Huawei to build part of Britain’s 5G network. He denies it, and says he’s been the victim of a witch hunt, and in fairness to him, it’s not hard to believe that his colleagues were looking for any opportunity to have him removed.
As soon as I read that there had been a leak of classified information from someone in the cabinet I thought to myself “Williamson,” and I wasn’t alone. That doesn’t prove he did it of course, but it’s indicative of the public profile that he managed to create, the master of the mishap, but also someone with a reputation of being a serial leaker.
Poor old Gav will lament the war that he never actually got to fight as head of the Ministry of Defence, but no one can accuse him of not trying to start one. If he wasn’t antagonising the world’s biggest nuclear power in Moscow, he was throwing shade at China.
He got so excited when Britain finally launched its new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth he started threatening countries he didn’t like with ‘lethal force’ and promised to deploy it to the Pacific. China, which as far as I know is the home of so-called ‘carrier killer’ missiles, was rightly angered by that and cancelled planned Brexit trade talks. Threatening war and scuppering trade deals is not exactly in the national interest.
In some ways, Williamson is just the everyman, behaving exactly as you’d expect any of us to behave if we’d gone from selling fireplaces (yes that’s right) to being put in charge of the nation’s military. Maybe it’s too much to say that he was desperate to use the weapons he was responsible for, but he certainly wanted to hold them, and wave them about a bit, usually in the direction of Beijing and Moscow. It’s ironic that in the end, it was China that actually got him.
My personal favourite Williamson moment came when he accused Russia of planning to cripple Britain’s infrastructure and kill “thousands and thousands and thousands” of people. I commend his commitment to a claim which doesn’t appear to have any evidential basis. He could have stopped at just using two thousands, but he went for a third. I don’t know why but I’ve always thought that says so much about the man.
So it’s goodbye for now to Gavin Williamson, who is being forced to go away but it doesn’t look like he’s going to shut up, because he’s loudly fighting his corner and denies being the source of any leaks. It’s reported that he’s even accused Theresa May’s national security adviser of being responsible for his sacking. If that’s true, it might be worth asking why the man in charge of national security wanted him out. Personally, I feel safer already.
And did I mention his pet tarantula?