Gavin Williamson replaces Fallon as defence secretary


LONDON: Chief Whip Gavin Williamson has been appointed as the new defence secretary after Sir Michael Fallon’s resignation. Sir Michael quit on Wednesday saying his past behaviour may have “fallen short” of the standards expected by the UK military.
He became the first politician to quit following recently revealed claims of sexual harassment in Parliament. Mr Williamson has been replaced as chief whip by his former deputy, Julian Smith. In the role Mr Smith will be in charge of enforcing party discipline in the Commons, and his deputy will be Tatton MP – and former GMTV presenter – Esther McVey. Mrs May’s decision to move her chief whip at such a difficult time had come as a surprise to many people. But he said she had avoided “unsettling the equilibrium” and making a full reshuffle ahead of the 22 November Budget.
Gavin Williamson has no military background and has never been a secretary of state. But he is youthful, a rising star and trusted by Number 10. He arrives at the Ministry of Defence at a difficult time. His first challenge will be to try to stave off more defence cuts. The Cabinet Office is currently carrying out a defence and security review which is due to report by the end of the year. All three services have been asked to put forward options for cuts. Although there has been a modest rise in the MoD’s budget, it has still got to make more than £20bn of efficiency savings. Michael Fallon quit as the UK’s Defence Secretary in the aftermath of being embroiled in the Westminster sex scandal.
In his resignation letter, the long-serving MP said his past behaviour had “fallen short” of what is expected in the military. Fallon is the first ministerial casualty following a series of Westminster sexual harassment allegations, which have emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. Earlier this week, he apologised over an incident 15 years ago in which he made unwanted advances to the journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, placing his hand on her knee.
Julia Hartley-Brewer
A journalist who was touched on the knee by Sir Michael Fallon has described the Defence Secretary’s resignation as “ridiculous”. Sir Michael apologised to Julia Hartley-Brewer on Monday after it emerged he “overstepped the mark” with the commentator at a Conservative Party conference dinner in 2002. Reacting to news of the Defence Secretary’s resignation, Ms Hartley-Brewer told Sky News she was “incredibly shocked”.