Tory MPs go berserk as Theresa May makes her mate defence secretary
Gavin Williamson has been described by one hostile Tory MP as 'a real slimeball' and by another as a 'self-serving c****.
To say that some Conservative MPs are unhappy with the chief whip becoming defence secretary would be putting it mildly.
After the appointment was announced this morning, various Tories concluded that Gavin Williamson had effectively ousted Michael Fallon before handing himself the job.
And they were very angry about it…
The Press Association was told by one former minister:
"The feeling is it’s just a move that demonstrates Theresa May’s own weakness by allowing the guy who suggested to her that Fallon should go to take that job. It’s a bizarre appointment from somebody who’s so shell-shocked she doesn’t know which direction to turn in and so is listening to the person she just likes and trusts rather than having a view about it herself."
Over at PoliticsHome, a former minister explained:
"You've got a situation where people are openly saying that Gavin Williamson appointed himself defence secretary - that is not good for the prime minister. The obvious candidate to be the new chief whip was Anne Milton, but instead it's gone to Gavin's mate Julian Smith. There's a real trust issue with him and people think he's pretty sinister. Gavin has gone off to a great job to prepare his 2019 leadership bid, while Julian minds the shop for him in the whips office."
The Guardian's political editor Heather Stewart said that one backbench Conservative MP had summed up their reaction in three words:
"Unbelievable. Ludicrous. Astonishing."
And it got worse. PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield was told by one Tory MP:
"Gavin Williamson is an oily, greasy ingratiator who is now in a job where his severe limitations will be on display."
Not to be outdone, the New Statesman's George Eaton quoted a Tory MP saying:
"He [Williamson] has become the most loathed person in the parliamentary party, he's overplayed his hand, he's out of his depth, he's never held a ministerial post, he's never spoken at the despatch box and he's deserted the whips office at a perilous moment."
Upping the stakes further, Eaton also said that in the parliamentary tea room a female Tory MP had simply described Williamson as a "self-serving c****". But is not just former ministers and unknown backbenchers who are fuming. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said one current minister told her of the prime minister:
"She is so weak she has let Williamson appoint himself. This is appalling."
Huffington Post political editor Paul Waugh quoted a minister saying:
"She's gone mad. It's real 'end of days' stuff. He's [Williamson] a real slimeball, with his own leadership team in place."
Meanwhile the Daily Mail’s political editor Jason Groves managed to grab a minister emerging from Commons tea room. What did they think of Williamson’s appointment?
"The most unpopular political decision I have ever known."
But not all Conservative MPs have been blowing a gasket over the news. On Twitter, Nick Boles said he was "puzzled by vehemence of some reactions" to Williamson's appointment, adding that he had been an effective chief whip and loyal to successive prime ministers. On The World at One, Bob Stewart called Williamson "a decent, calm man" and "the sort of person who will listen carefully, take advice, but then make his own decision".
Picture credit: Press Association.