Brexit – what Brexit? The results of yesterday’s Local Elections (see our blog) are trickling in and making the headlines today, as does the sacking of Mr Williamson on Wednesday.
The overall verdict on the election results will have to wait until they’re all done and dusted, but there are some rather juicy news regarding the Huawei scandal and Mr Williamson’s sacking.
Two blog entries have focussed on the Top Civil Servant who instigated this sacking, see here for a more general assessment, and here for a lovely list of leaks which can only have come from … Sir Mark Sedwill.
Update: please do read this article just in which provides more background. If your blood boils afterwards, don’t blame me!
It is now fair to say that two civil servants, Sir Mark Sedwill and Mr Olly Robbins, have been governing our country., not the PM nor her Cabinet.
It is now fair to say that there’s a new international class – that of the top bureaucrats who have more in common with each other than with the countries they are supposed to serve. The WA is the proof – as we and others have been pointing out ever since the PM introduced it.
So, while there’s ‘no Brexit’, let’s look at what came in overnight in the paywalled broadsheets. The most important report is in the DT (paywalled link):
“Donald Trump’s secretary of state will warn Theresa May against granting Huawei access to Britain’s 5G networks, as she faced a growing backlash over her decision to sack Gavin Williamson. Mike Pompeo will say in a face-to-face meeting next Wednesday that the Chinese technology company poses a risk to British citizens and could breach privacy protections when he meets the Prime Minister and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, in London. The former head of the CIA will make clear that giving Huawei access could throw US-UK technology partnerships into doubt, according to a senior US State Department official, who said spelling out the risks was “imperative”.
There’s more, and it is important because this does go to the core of our anger, about unelected civil servants riding roughshod over the Nations’ concerns, in secrecy, but leaking when they want to influence public opinion. As we all know by now – no actual security details were ‘leaked’:
“Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, defended the Telegraph’s right to report the National Security Council leak on Huawei, while security experts and MPs said the leak inquiry had been a “smokescreen” to divert attention away from the core issue of Mrs May’s judgement. Mrs May’s decision to give Huawei limited access to the country’s 5G networks […] has put renewed strain on the UK-US relationship.” (paywalled link)
Comment posters across the MSM and across blogs have pointed out yesterday that, given the WA and the previous commitment of the PM to tie our country into the EU “Defence” set-up, it is not surprising that she is apparently unconcerned about damaging our commitment to NATO and to our ally, the USA.
We now know that these EU ties are the work of civil servants rather than elected ministers whom we can hold to account, so will this intervention by the USA carry weight or will it be “Hail the EU” again? Regarding the sacking of Mr Williamson, here’s The Times:
“Furious Tory MPs last night demanded to know why the prime minister had sacked the defence secretary over a leak from a top-secret body just as voters were about to go to the polls. […] Mrs May’s decision to sack Mr Williamson on the eve of the poll is certain to form part of the inquest over election losses. A Tory MP said it was “crackers” and proof that she was “in the bunker without any shred of political intelligence left”. (link, paywalled)
Is it too much to hope though that these ‘furious’ MPs and Tory Party leaders will finally take the consequences and get rid of her as well as the disastrous WA? It bears repeating that our elected politicians had no input, that this was concocted by unelected bureaucrats here, in Brussels and in Germany.
“[…] he is reportedly thinking of delivering a speech like Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech which sparked Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. Political editor Nicholas Watt said on BBC Newsnight: “Make no mistake, Gavin Williamson is on the warpath.I spoke to a friend tonight who said he is thinking of delivering a speech on the level of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech which famously precipitated the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.”
Well, this is politics, so I won’t hold my breath until I can hear what he’s actually saying. Meanwhile, his friends and allies have been talking to the DT (paywalled, so I’ll quote at length), with some intriguing information:
“Dominic Fortescue, the Government’s chief security officer, had travelled to Dumfries and Galloway [where Mr Williamson was on holidays] to question the then defence secretary as part of the Huawei leak inquiry. The Daily Telegraph can now reveal what, according to Mr Williamson, was the “compelling evidence” Theresa May would later claim to have against her minister, and the reason she would later accuse him of failing to cooperate fully with the inquiry.” (paywalled link)
Here are some more juicy details:
“According to their [Mr Williamson and friends] account – which is disputed by the Government – Mr Fortescue began the meeting with Mr Williamson by handing him a piece of paper asking him to provide his full cooperation with the leak inquiry, including providing access to his mobile phones and emails. […] Mr Williamson read it, asked if he could consider it more carefully in his own time before signing it, and produced his mobile phone, showing Mr Fortescue his call history, texts and WhatsApp messages. The phone calls included an 11-minute conversation with Steven Swinford, The Daily Telegraph’s deputy political editor, which, Mr Williamson explained, had been about other matters which he detailed to the investigator.” (paywalled link)
So Mr Sedwill and the PM have the text of that conversation with the DT – but don’t seem to have made that content the actual ‘smoking pistol. This next quote is illuminating:
“Mr Williamson told the Telegraph: “The fact that I had spoken to Steven was information that I had provided myself to the investigation, but what was even more surprising was that they seemed to think this was a killer fact. I had told my private office I had spoken to the Telegraph before the investigation had even been initiated. It certainly seems odd that if I had been doing something that was wrong in any way that I would have informed my own office civil servants. Why would I do that if I was trying to cover it up?” (paywalled link)
Self-serving, perhaps, but one should always hear what the ‘accused’ has to say. This shows that the procedure was indeed somewhat haphazard:
“Before Mr Fortescue left, Mr Williamson reminded him that he should also look through his emails, which he gratefully did. The Cabinet Office security chief then left, only to return 20 minutes later to ask for the piece of paper he had asked Mr Williamson to sign. Mr Williamson had not had a chance to read it in more detail, so he asked Mr Fortescue to confirm he had complied with everything asked of him in the document, which he says Mr Fortescue agreed he had.” (paywalled link)
It gets even more like a spy thriller – only a proper writer wouldn’t have dared to come up with this:
“The Daily Telegraph understands that in his 30-minute meeting with Mrs May, during which he refused to resign and told the Prime Minister she had “the wrong person”, he was confronted with only one piece of “evidence” that he was the source of the leak: his phone call with Steven Swinford.” (paywalled link)
And – see above – he actually gave that information to Mr Fortescue. The PM and Mr Sedwill have the text but haven’t even mentioned that the content of that phone call was the reason for his sacking but they cannot publish it because >> > ‘security’. One wonders why they haven’t even stated that! To conclude:
“A Whitehall source said last night: “This is a partial account and it is not an accurate reflection of events.” On the issue of the investigation, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Correct procedures were followed.” (paywalled link)
In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies: they would say that …
Meanwhile, we all have to sit on our hands until the final verdict has come in later today – but do go here while waiting, where images of defaced ballot papers are reproduced. These show the mood of us peasants as much as the actual votes.