Gavin Alexander Williamson CBE MP (born 25 June 1976) is a British Conservative politician who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 2017 to 2019, and has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for South Staffordshire since 2010.
Williamson served in the Cameron Government as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport prior to being appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister in October 2013. From 14 July 2016 to 2 November 2017, he served as Chief Whip in the May Government, and on 2 November 2017 he was appointed Secretary of State for Defence. On 1 May 2019 he was dismissed as Defence Secretary, following a leak from the National Security Council; Williamson has denied leaking the information.
Early life and career
Williamson is originally from Scarborough, North Yorkshire. His parents, Ray, a local government worker, and Beverly, a job centre worker, were both Labour voters. Williamson was educated in Scarborough, at East Ayton Primary School, followed by Raincliffe School, a state comprehensive school, and the Scarborough Sixth Form College, where he studied Government and Politics and Economics at "A" Level. He obtained a BSc in Social Sciences from the University of Bradford.
Williamson was the penultimate national chairman of Conservative Students, before it was abolished in 1998 and the separate youth wings of the party were amalgamated as Conservative Future. He was elected a county councillor in 2001 for the Seamer division in North Yorkshire but later stood down in 2005. Williamson is a former Deputy Chairman of Staffordshire Area Conservatives, Chairman of Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Association, and Vice-Chairman of Derbyshire Dales Conservative Association.
Williamson had become managing director of Aynsley China, a Staffordshire-based pottery firm by 2005. It sold ceramic tableware and he later became co-owner. In April 2005, Williamson was quoted in reports on the consumer rush to buy items with the wrong wedding date on for Charles and Camilla's wedding. He told The Telegraph, "We've literally had fights in our own retail shops. On the first day after the announcement I went into our factory shop in Stoke-on-Trent and we had people fighting over the last plate that we had on the shop floor. I think everybody has decided that this is going to be their pension."
Early parliamentary career (2010–2011)
In January 2010, Williamson was selected as the Conservative candidate in South Staffordshire for the 2010 general election. The incumbent, Patrick Cormack, had announced that he was retiring. The selection went to five ballots, but in the end Williamson won out over local councillor Robert Light in the final ballot. Williamson was subsequently elected with a majority of 16,590 votes. Shortly after being elected, he cited his political inspiration as Rab Butler and, when asked what department of any he would most like to lead, he said the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as it is "business and manufacturing that can lead the way out of difficult economic times".
Williamson made his maiden speech on 8 June 2010, on the same day as Nicky Morgan and Kwasi Kwarteng. During his speech, he said that "We do not sing enough the praises of our designers, engineers and manufacturers. We need to change that ethos and have a similar one to that of Germany or Japan. We will have a truly vibrant economy only when we recreate the Victorian spirit of ingenuity and inventiveness that made Britain such a vibrant country, as I am sure it will be again." Williamson campaigned on a number of issues in his first year in Parliament.
In July 2010, Williamson called for a new law to allow local authorities to clamp down on car boot sales that disrupted traffic flow, citing villages in his constituency as examples. In June 2011, he expressed support for postwoman Julie Roberts, who had been suspended after clinging for over a mile onto the bonnet of her post van that had been stolen. He said that "People want her back in work and they want the Royal Mail to show some common sense and some common decency" and asked the Royal Mail to reinstate her into her old job. Williamson was one of several MPs who was absent or abstained on the 21 March 2011 vote on supporting UN-backed action in Libya. The vote ultimately passed 557–13.
Parliamentary Private Secretaryships (2011–2016)
In October 2011, Williamson was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Hugo Swire. He replaced Conor Burns, who became Owen Paterson's new PPS. In September 2012, Williamson became PPS to Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, and in 2013 became PPS to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Chief Whip (2016–2017)
Following David Cameron's resignation, Williamson "privately vowed" to stop the front-runner Boris Johnson from becoming Conservative Party leader. He assessed Theresa May to be the likeliest candidate to defeat Johnson, offered his help to her, and was invited to be her parliamentary campaign manager. When May became prime minister, Williamson was appointed Chief Whip.
Defence Secretary (2017–2019)
In February 2018, Williamson dined with Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former Putin minister, in exchange for a £30,000 donation to the Conservative party. Later that month, Williamson alleged that the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in meeting a Czech diplomat (later revealed to be a spy) during the 1980s, had "betray[ed]" his country. In response to the statement, a spokesman for Corbyn stated: "Gavin Williamson should focus on his job and not give credence to entirely false and ridiculous smears".
Williamson has supported the Saudi Arabian-led military intervention in Yemen against the Shia Houthis despite concerns from human rights activists and Labour MPs about war crimes allegedly committed by the Saudi military.
On 15 March 2018, in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, Williamson answered a question about Russia's potential response to the UK′s punitive measures against Russia by saying that "frankly, Russia should go away, and it should shut up". Meanwhile, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman of the Russian Defence Ministry, said: "The market wench talk that British defence secretary Gavin Williamson resorted to reflects his extreme intellectual impotency". Williamson′s remark was quoted by the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, who posted a comment on his official Twitter account: "The Kremlin's 'chemical attack' in the UK is nothing but an encroachment on British sovereignty. And our message to Russia is the same as that of British defense secretary Gavin Williamson: 'shut up and go away'."
In December 2018, Williamson expressed "grave" and "very deep concerns" about the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei providing technology to upgrade Britain's services to 5G. He accused China of acting "sometimes in a malign way". China's Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian criticised Williamson’s comments, saying: "The remarks just reinforced the deep-rooted ignorance, prejudice and anxiety among some British people."
On 11 February 2019, Williamson delivered the speech "Defence in Global Britain" at the Royal United Services Institute outlining the future direction of the British armed forces. The speech, among other things, outlined plans to send Britain's new aircraft carrier to the Pacific; the Chinese Government in turn cancelled trade talks with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and prompted Hammond to state that the decision to deploy the aircraft carrier was premature. The Mail on Sunday quoted an unnamed ally of Hammond comparing Williamson to Private Pike, a hapless character in the sitcom Dad's Army.
On 1 May 2019, Williamson was asked to resign from his position as Defence Secretary, following the leaking of confidential information relating to a National Security Council meeting. He refused to resign and was then sacked. Theresa May said that she had "compelling evidence" that Williamson had leaked the information and that she had "lost confidence in his ability to serve in his role". Williamson denied the allegation and said that a "thorough and formal inquiry" would have vindicated his position. Opposition MPs have called for a police investigation into the matter.
Personal life and honours
Williamson is a patron of the World Owl Trust and while chief whip kept a Mexican redknee tarantula, Cronus, in his parliamentary office, for which he was criticised by parliamentary authorities in November 2016.
In January 2018, it became known that Williamson, while he was managing director of fireplace firm Elgin & Hall in 2004, had an office romance. To save his marriage, he has said he left the firm. According to Williamson, it became "flirtatious and a couple of times we shared a kiss", but it "never went further", Williamson told the Daily Mail. "My family means everything to me and I almost threw it away", Williamson said. "This incident nearly destroyed two marriages". The Sunday Telegraph reported that a senior co-worker stated that the woman involved was in tears when reporting the incident at work and that Williamson was subsequently the subject of a meeting with managers.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gavin Williamson.|
- Official site
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Conservative Party
- South Staffordshire Conservative Association
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
for South Staffordshire
| Chief Whip of the House of Commons
| Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury|
| Secretary of State for Defence
|Party political offices|
| Conservative Chief Whip of the House of Commons