Theresa May is facing a mutiny over her surprise decision to make Gavin Williamson the Defence Secretary.
Penny Mordaunt, a DWP minister and Navy reservist, and Tobias Elwood, a former Army officer and junior Defence minister, were favourites to replace Michael Fallon, who quit last night amid the sexual harassment scandal.
Tory MPs are said to be “furious” and “livid” with the decision to promote Williamson, who was Chief Whip but has neither military or ministerial experience.
Some have fired shots in public while others have been sniping away to journalists.
Here’s the nuclear fallout so far:
Laura Kuenssberg said another minister had told her that May “looks so weak because she has allowed Williamson to promote himself”:
— Daily&SundayPolitics (@daily_politics) November 2, 2017
Respected backbencher Sarah Wollaston openly expressed her concern at the appointment on Twitter:
There are times when offered a job that it would be better to advise that another would be more experienced & suited to the role
— Sarah Wollaston (@sarahwollaston) November 2, 2017
She later told BBC World at One:
“Part of the role of being Chief Whip is to advice the Prime Minister on the most experienced and suitable person to take on such an important job as Secretary of State for Defence and I think it would be worth reflecting whether there were others that were more experienced and suited for that role.”
May received support from her former Chief of Staff Nick Timothy, who said:
Gavin Williamson was TM’s campaign manager and has been a brilliant chief whip. The idea he appointed himself is absurd. She rates him.
— Nick Timothy (@NickJTimothy) November 2, 2017
Anna Soubry, who has also called for Damian Green to step down as Deputy PM, shot back at him:
Concerning comment from someone who helped lose the Conservative Party its majority & destroy 10 years hard work to make us electable. https://t.co/1IVKkvJWaT
— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) November 2, 2017
Meanwhile, Tory MPs have been giving off the record briefings against May to journalists at Westminster:
Text from senior Tory MP about Gavin Williamson: "He's out of the shitstorm. Knifed Fallon and pinched his job. It's way above his ability."
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) November 2, 2017
Williamson for PM? One Tory MP texts: "Gosh. Could Francis Urquhart be preparing his own next step?"
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) November 2, 2017
I would be sacked if I tweeted the word one minister just used to describe new defence secretary Gavin Williamson
— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) November 2, 2017
Minister tells me: "She's gone mad. It's real 'end of days' stuff. He's [Williamson] a real slimeball, w/ his own leadership team in place"
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) November 2, 2017
Minister emerging from Commons tea room describes Gavin Williamson appointment as 'the most unpopular political decision I have ever known'
— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) November 2, 2017
Me to a (female) MP; Has Williamson’s appointment gone down badly? “You bet your f***king life”
— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) November 2, 2017
— Alex Spence (@alexGspence) November 2, 2017
And saving the best until last…
Female Tory MP on Gavin Williamson in the tea room: "a self-serving cunt". https://t.co/3jWo9qQjd4
— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) November 2, 2017
I think that’s what Williamson’s new friends in the military ‘friendly fire’…