Mr Goofy’s gone? The glee dripped out of ev­ery pore

Sees the Com­mons gloat over Wil­liamson’s de­fen­es­tra­tion

Daily Mail - - News - HENRY DEEDES

THERE are some politi­cians who de­spite our con­fronta­tional par­lia­men­tary sys­tem re­main uni­ver­sally liked. They’re con­ge­nial, all­round good eggs.

Al­though some may dis­agree, I’m think­ing of kindly wal­ruses such as Father of the House Ken Clarke (Con – Rush­cliffe) or jovial wind-up mer­chants like Stephen Pound (Lab – North Eal­ing).

Judg­ing by the mood in the Com­mons yes­ter­day, it’s safe to as­sume ex- de­fence sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson is held in no such re­gard.

Sure, the odd Gavin loy­al­ist would have de­scribed him as a ded­i­cated min­is­ter. Goofy rather than nasty. But the gen­eral con­sen­sus around is that he is a prize pil­lock.

Shorn of his min­is­te­rial epaulettes late on Wed­nes­day af­ter he was deemed to have leaked sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion from a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing, there was a pi­quant at­mos­phere when the sub­ject of his dra­matic de­fen­es­tra­tion was brought to the cham­ber via an ur­gent ques­tion from deputy Labour leader Tom Wat­son.

From op­po­si­tion mem­bers, glee dripped out of ev­ery pore. On the govern­ment side, well, let us just say the at­mos­phere was far from fu­ne­real.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s PPS An­drew Bowie (Con - West Aberdeen­shire and Kin­car­dine) toured the back­benches grin­ning and glad- hand­ing col­leagues like a trendy vicar but­ter­ing up his con­gre­ga­tion. Make of that what you will.

Pre­dictably, Theresa May chose not to at­tend. Dis­patched in her stead was Cabi­net Of­fice Sec­re­tary David Lid­ing­ton, who ap­peared sur­pris­ingly chip­per con­sid­er­ing the in­evitable on­slaught he faced. Lid­ders said the leak would not be re­ferred to the po­lice and hav­ing sacked Wil­liamson, the PM ‘now con­sid­ered the mat­ter closed.’ Oh well, that’s that then. Not so fast, said Wat­son. The saga, ac­cord­ing to Labour’s holier-than-thou deputy, was in­dica­tive of the ‘malaise and sick­ness’ at the heart of the Govern­ment. In what world should the PM be the ar­biter of whether a crim­i­nal act had been com­mit­ted?

UQs [Ur­gent Ques­tions] are what these oc­ca­sions are called – handed out far too gen­er­ously by the Speaker, but Wat­son used this one ef­fec­tively. Had it been Jeremy Cor­byn squawk­ing his usual at­tack lines (‘Re­sign!’ ‘Dis­grace!’), few would have lis­tened. Wat­son, by contrast, spoke in soft, ar­tic­u­late tones. This is the way to do dam­age.

All around the House, de­mands for Wil­liamson to face crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion fol­lowed. Ste­wart McDonald (SNP – Glas­gow South) said it wasn’t in the Prime Min­is­ter’s gift to de­clare the mat­ter closed. ‘No ifs, no buts,’ said Anna Soubry (Change UK – Brox­towe). This was a mat­ter for the rozzers. Philip Hol­lobone (Con – Ket­ter­ing) asked if leak­ing in­for­ma­tion from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was not a breach of the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act. There was a ques­tion from Sir Michael Fal­lon (Con – Sevenoaks) on whether Bri­tain’s al­lies had been as­sured this ‘ sorry episode’ would not be re­peated. Was there an air of schaden­freude in his tone? Fal­lon was re­placed by Wil­liamson af­ter be­ing forced to re­sign for get­ting a lit­tle over-amorous with a West­min­ster hack­ette.

Sev­eral Con­ser­va­tives, though, felt Wil­liamson had been hard done by.

Sir Ed­ward Leigh (Con – Gains­bor­ough) and Sir Des­mond Swayne (Con – New For­est West) com­plained he’d been de­nied ‘ nat­u­ral jus­tice.’ Peter Bone (Con – Welling­bor­ough) said Wil­liamson had been dis­missed far too hastily. He re­minded the House of when Tory MP An­drew Mitchell fell af­ter be­ing ac­cused of call­ing po­lice of­fi­cers ‘plebs’ dur­ing a row in Down­ing Street.

BOB Seely (Con – Isle of Wight) re­turned to the per­ti­nent sub­ject of Wil­liamson’s leak, and the award­ing of the 5G con­tract to Huawei, in­sist­ing the tele­coms firm was ef­fec­tively an arm of the Chi­nese state.

Au con­traire, replied Lid­ing­ton smoothly. He said it’s owned by its em­ploy­ees and there­fore a pri­vate company. It’s very sig­nif­i­cant that ex-Army in­tel­li­gence types such as Cap­tain Bob main­tain oth­er­wise.

Af­ter­wards, an­other ur­gent ques­tion fol­lowed on Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling’s lat­est boob – the £50mil­lion loss for can­celling con­tracts for ex­tra fer­ries to bring in es­sen­tial sup­plies in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

At some point over this Bank Hol­i­day week­end, Gavin Wil­liamson will doubt­less pon­der how he came to lose his boss’s con­fi­dence, while the hap­less Trans­port Sec­re­tary still con­tin­ues to en­joy her un­wa­ver­ing sup­port. But that’s just mod­ern pol­i­tics.

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