Newspaper coverage of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sacking 020519 SOURCE BFBS

Gavin Williamson: Exit For The Man With 'The Best Job In Government'

Forces News' reporter Laura Makin-Isherwood began covering Westminster at the same time as Mr Williamson joined Cabinet.

Newspaper coverage of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sacking 020519 SOURCE BFBS

Gavin Williamson's sacking on Wednesday evening brought to an end his 18-month spell as defence secretary.

Forces News' Westminster Correspondent Laura Makin-Isherwood covered trips to locations including Kenya, Belgium and Scotland with the now-former Cabinet minister, and interviewed Mr Williamson in December to go over his highlights of the job.

Here is her take on his time in office.

I started this job in Westminster at the same time Gavin Williamson took up the post of Defence Secretary.

He was a relatively unknown figure promoted to one of the biggest jobs in Government. The former chief whip, with no previous military links, was elevated to the top of the Ministry of Defence.

But it was clear he wanted to make his mark.

He told me repeatedly that he thought he had the "best job in Government". He felt privileged to have it and wanted to do what he could while he was in post.

And he started quickly, by taking planned cuts to HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion off the table.

He alerted people to the threats hostile states were posing – trying to bring it to the public attention.

And amid a climate of budget cuts, managed to secure more money for his department from the Treasury.

But he did make a number of gaffs. And the media were there to make the most of it when he did.

His most famous line – that Russia should "go away and should shut up" made him front page news, and the butt of many jokes.

But despite the ridicule, he kept his humour.

He was, with personnel at least, kind and interested. He wanted to hear their stories, understand their lives and try out their kit at every opportunity.

And personnel liked him. Compared to many of his predecessors, they felt Gavin Williamson was fighting their corner.

But it felt, to me, like he knew his time was limited. I remember asking if he trusted many people in the Commons, he said a wise man told him that you should keep the friends you had before becoming an MP – as they are the ones who hold true.

He worked hard, clocking up thousands of miles by road, air and sea, but never once did I see him publicly lose his patience no matter how tired he was.

Laura Makin-Isherwood with Gavin Williamson in Kenya
Laura Makin-Isherwood interviewing Mr Williamson during a press trip to Kenya in 2018.

He understood the need to communicate with the media - but it appears his track record of oversharing may have been his downfall.

If Gavin Williamson was the source of the Huawei leak, he will be the first person to have ever spilled information from discussions that take place in a National Security Council meeting.

This conclusion Theresa May came to is something Mr Williamson vehemently denies. It is something neither he nor his team would do, he says, and he believes he should not have been sacked.

He is calling for a police investigation. That will prove his innocence, he says.

But that protest is not being met well by Labour. Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith says this kind of behaviour is unheard of from a former Cabinet minister. His predecessor, Sir Michael Fallon, resigned and left quietly and Gavin Williamson should do the same.

Gavin Williamson, though, has never followed the rules. It seems unlikely, as he is banished to the backbenches, that he is about to start.