It’s been something of a political hot potato from the get-go, and now the Huawei 5G debacle has cost a senior UK politician his job.
Gavin Williamson, the former defence secretary, has been sacked by Theresa May after allegedly leaking key information from a meeting with the National Security Council.
Williamson was apparently the ‘whistle-blower’ who revealed that Huawei had been confirmed as the major supplier of some of the tech that will be used in the UK’s 5G infrastructure, which is set to be rolled out at some point this year.
And to make matters worse for the controversial MP, he may yet face criminal proceedings as an investigation is launched into whether he has breached the Official Secrets Act.
Williamson has come out today and strenuously denied the charges, and even told Sky News that he ‘swore on his children’s lives’ that he was not the source of the leak.
“I have been completely and utterly screwed,” he said.
“When I spoke to the prime minister she said I could either resign or be sacked. I said I would not resign because I did not leak this information, so she sacked me.
“The prime minister needs to show she is strong and bold, this is a useful way of doing that… it is politics.”
In the same interview, Williamson also sensationally claimed his sacking was the result of a personal vendetta against him by Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary.
Downing Street have also come out today and declared the matter closed, although you sense it could rumble on should Williamson launch legal proceedings against the cabinet. He will be replaced by former international secretary Penny Mourdant.
Poison Pen Letter Shows May’s Uncompromising Side
Being sacked from public office is one thing, but having your dismissal recounted in a letter published in the media across the globe is quite another thing altogether.
PM letter to Gavin Williamson pic.twitter.com/ZJbMm9t2Bn
— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) 1 May 2019
In it, the Prime Minister recounts a meeting with Williamson in which he was told of his sacking, with May declaring: “In our meeting this evening, I put to you the latest information from the investigation, which provides compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure.
“No other credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.
“It is therefore with great sadness that I have concluded that I can no longer have full confidence in you as secretary of state for defence and a minister in my cabinet and asked you to leave Her Majesty’s government.”
Williamson fired up his laptop and got to work on a right to reply letter, in which he wrote: “I am sorry that you feel recent leaks from the National Security Council originated in my department. I emphatically believe this was not the case.
“I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved in this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position.”
He also confirmed that May had offered him the opportunity to resign prior to his sacking, which he refused to do.
Farewell to the Man Who Told a Whole Country to Shut Up
In many ways, this is another blow to Theresa May’s fragile grip on 10 Downing Street.
Williamson has been a key ally of the Prime Minister’s throughout her many trials and tribulations, and has been an outspoken supporter of the Leave motion throughout the Brexit campaign.
On the flipside, the opportunity to remove a key political figure on the even of the local elections might be seen as a ploy to strengthen the resolve of the Conservative Party in the eyes of the voting public.
And Williamson has had his moments while in office that suggest he is something of a loose cannon.
This, remember, was the man who told Russia to ‘shut up and go away’ in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning episode; an outburst that earned him the nickname ‘Private Pike’.
He was also a close ally to David Cameron during his reign, which included the fall-out following the former PM’s decision to launch the EU referendum.
Williamson’s curiosities include keeping a pet tarantula, Cronus, on his desk in a glass case, which he described rather creepily as a ‘a perfect example of an incredibly clean, ruthless killer.
And who can forget the cracking revelations in The Sun newspaper about some of his suggestions to stretch the defence budget, which apparently included mounting machine guns on tractors and turning ferries into beach assault vessels.
So farewell Gavin, it’s been fun!