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Confessions of a door to door fireplace salesman

June 24th, 2018

The former fireplace salesman becomes another Tory making plans to oust Mrs May.

Today’s Mail on Sunday reports that

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has threatened to sweep Theresa May from power in a bitter Cabinet row over military cuts.

Furious Mr Williamson warned the Prime Minister that if she did not commit an extra £20 billion to the Ministry of Defence then Tory MPs would vote down the next Budget – effectively passing a motion of no confidence in her.

‘I made her – and I can break her,’ Mr Williamson is said to have boasted to service chiefs. 

The furore, described by one Williamson ally as a ‘dogfight at the heart of Government’, erupted after Mrs May announced a £20 billion-a-year boost to NHS spending last week. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond then declared there was no money left for similar boosts to defence, housing or schools spending.

When Mr Williamson said he needed his own £20 billion – a minimum of £2 billion a year extra for the next decade – to avoid damaging defence cuts, Mrs May questioned whether the UK had to be a ‘tier one’ military power.

Mr Williamson hit back that after Brexit it would be even more important for the UK to ‘sit at the top table’ internationally.

Last night a formidable array of political and military figures were lining up behind Mr Williamson in his power struggle with No 10.

They were led by the chairman of the powerful Commons defence committee, who warned that Mrs May could be ‘at political risk’ if she did not ‘do the right thing’ by increasing defence spending.

And the former head of the British Army, General the Lord Dannatt, told The Mail on Sunday that he feared Mr Williamson could be forced to resign over the issue.

This newspaper understands that in a recent meeting, Mr Williamson reassured senior members of the Armed Forces that he was fighting for more funds…

…Up to 20 Tory MPs are threatening to rebel if the Treasury and No 10 cannot find more money for defence. A powerful delegation formed of Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, along with chairmen of the defence and foreign affairs committees, are planning to meet Mrs May in the coming weeks to urge her to give a generous settlement to the MoD.

One of the few things that seems to unite the current Tory party is the contempt in which Gavin Williamson is held in by pretty much everyone. One Tory said in response to this story “Williamson’s intemperate and frankly bizarre media posturing shows just how unsuited he is for any high office whatsoever. He’s over-promoted and thinks stamping his foot stops him from being found out. It doesn’t.”

So ordinarily I’d expect Mrs May to see off a rebellion from Gavin Williamson, where Mrs May will struggle is that a not inconsiderable number of Tories will find it unpalatable if the UK ceases to be a Tier One Nation on defence.

The Sunday Times says it is entirely possible within the next decade that UK moves from being Europe’s top military power to being the third most important military power after Germany and France as cuts are enacted to deliver the NHS Brexit ‘dividend’. Whilst we cut the Germans and French plan to increase defence spending.

After the Thatcher/Major defence cuts* and the disgraced Liam Fox’s botched Strategic Defence Review you’d have thought Tories would be ok with further defence cuts but this time it might be very different. Indeed a decent opposition could supplant the Tories as the party of defence, but Jeremy Corbyn, with his rich backstory, won’t be able to do that.

For those Tories with leadership ambitions making a stand on defence cuts will play well with Tory members. Mrs May needs as many allies as possible she seems keen to keep on alienating as many people as possible, this is not a viable long term strategy for her, losing her campaign manager will not be a good look.

TSE

*The 1990s defence cuts following the end of the Cold War were described as a ‘Peace Dividend’, the government offering dividends does not have an auspicious history.