So – a scandal, a proper, full-on scandal then! But what, you might ask, has the sacking of Gavin Williamson MP, now the former Minister of Defence, got to do with Brexit? Quite a lot, because it shines a huge spotlight on how Ms May operates.
Briefly, last week the NSC (National Security Council) met to deal with the issue of having Huawei become one of the suppliers for the planned 5G rollout. This was reported in the DT on Wednesday April 24th, here is a quote from the original text (paywalled link):
“Theresa May has given the green light to a Chinese telecoms giant to help build Britain’s new 5G network despite warnings from the US and some of her most senior ministers that it poses a risk to national security. The National Security Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, agreed on Tuesday to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the network such as antennas and other “noncore” infrastructure. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, Gavin Williamson, Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary, were said to have raised concerns about the approach.”
The outcry from government about an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act was immediate. Allegedly, Mr Sedwill, the top Civil Servant and Cabinet Secretary, demanded that all concerned were to hand in their phones, laptops etc to show their innocence and that the culprit would be sacked. This was amazing because there were no such repercussions on the multiple leaks from her Ministers when it was about Brexit, nor an outcry by Whitehell.
Read the text again and ponder what ‘secret’ had actually been ‘leaked’ … The following day, 25th of April, the lead journalist of the DT who broke the story wrote:
“As the journalist who first reported on Theresa May’s decision to give Huawei the green light to help build Britain’s 5G network, I am acutely aware of the political repercussions. The involvement of Huawei in supplying technology for Britain’s 5G infrastructure is undeniably a matter of significant public interest.” (paywalled link)
I’m sure we peasants out here can all agree that this is something we ought to know about, especially since May and her cabinet routinely kept us in the dark about her Brexit “negotiations”. I concur with the closing paragraphs from that article:
“So here we have a decision that has huge implications for Britain’s national security, for the special relationship and for future Governments. This is an issue of significant importance for the UK’s future, and one that The Telegraph believes should be subject to public debate and scrutiny. It is the fundamental role of political journalists to give their readers an insight into what goes on behind closed doors in the corridors of power, and inform them of decisions that will affect their lives.” (paywalled link)
Just so, and for the life of me I cannot see why this controversial government proposal is a ‘secret’. Just like Brexit – we peasants are too stupid to understand the ‘issue’ and must swallow what May and her civil serpent handlers have cooked up …
It is very interesting to note that there has been no outcry at all about sacking, hanging or tar-and-feathering the DT reporter who broke the story.
It’s even more interesting to note that the Remain MSM’s commentators, writing their opinion pieces, are all tacitly accepting that Mr Williamson is indeed the culprit and serves him right for being an obnoxious twerp – interesting because they accept the verdict of May as given to her by Mr Sedwill.
Just like the WA has been ‘made’ and is being pushed by top civil servants – you might remember a certain Mr Olly Robbins – they do not question, these writers accept what they are being told. A cynic like me might say that they are hoping to toe the Whitehell line in the hope of being the future recipients of leaks from those ‘sources’.
The reports and stories are all over the MSM, most of them not paywalled, so I’ll not link to them specifically but am bound to ask how come the reporter in the DM (here) knows that Mr Williamson’s chat with the DT lasted for 11 minutes? Surely a leak from someone, no?
Mr Williamson and friends point out that he was ‘stitched up’ by Mr Sedwill (see here) because he stood up to Whitehell. It’s certainly possible because other leakers have not been dealt with in a similar draconian fashion. The Times has this delicious interpretation:
“Perhaps, then, the defence secretary’s threats over military spending, and his boast that he made Theresa May and could break her, will have been as responsible for his downfall as his alleged leaking was. It’s exactly the sort of swaggering male condescension she hates and she will have had it in mind when she launched the inquiry in the first place.” (link, paywalled)
The text of May’s sacking letter is all over the papers, so you can read and see it for yourselves. Here’s an important snippet in the (paywalled) DT:
“Shortly afterwards [after the DT report], Sir Mark, who is also the national security adviser and has been infuriated by weekly leaks from Cabinet, began a formal inquiry. It was later claimed that he opened the investigation without Mrs May’s approval while she was in Northern Ireland at the funeral of Lyra McKee, the journalist shot dead by the New IRA. The scale of the inquiry emerged on Friday when Gavin Barwell, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, warned that if a leaker was discovered they would be sacked, regardless of their rank.” (paywalled link)
Ah – so this ‘inquiry’ was initiated by Mr Sedwill over the head of Ms May! He even sent an ‘official’ to get a statement from Mr Williamson who was on holiday in Scotland. But – this was no state secret that was leaked to ‘the enemy’:
“The alleged leak to The Telegraph was not of classified information. Rather it was designed to expose the Government’s decision to let the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei have a role in the UK’s 5G network, something that has caused anxiety in America and among security chiefs. This matter could well have gone before the Cabinet and been leaked without all the hoo-ha that has followed. It was because it came from a sensitive body like the NSC, established in 2010, that Mrs May faced demands for an inquiry. (paywalled link)
And take note of this as well:
“As senior Tories have pointed out, Brexit caused collective responsibility to break down long ago, with ministers leaking conversations and decisions all designed to burnish their credentials either as Remainers or Leavers.” (paywalled link)
We can all speculate to our hearts’ content about the why and why now. To me the main point is that this ‘scandal’ is proof that May is not running her cabinet or her government – the top mandarins of Whitehell do. They are of course the unelected bureaucrats, of the same caliber as the EU bureaucrats like M Barnier and Mr Selmayr. Birds of a feather, you might say.
The indispensable Sir John Redwood observes in his Diary today:
“The replacement of Gavin Williamson in Cabinet with Rory Stewart is the net change of yesterday’s mini reshuffle. The purpose is clear. Mr Williamson thought we should get on with leaving the EU. Mr Stewart is wedded to Mrs May’s deeply unpopular stay in and pay up Agreement. […] There was no leak of sensitive national security information. Someone leaked which Cabinet members opposed Mrs May’s wish to let a Chinese company into the UK 5G system. This is no worse than the regular leaks from Cabinet that we have got used to. Mr Williamson denies he leaked. […] There has bas been no leak enquiry when the leaker could have been a Remain supporting Cabinet member.”
Exactly! Look again at the quote from the original report above. That’s why this “scandal” is important. To repeat: it finally shows, out in the open, two things: one, that May is not in control of her policies – her Whitehell handlers are and have been. Two, that the Whitehell Mandarins are the real culprits thwarting Brexit, as I’ve said for a long time.
Of course, it’s in the hands of a PM to decide how to deal with the Sir Humphreys, but we know that May has been in thrall to her Mandarins ever since she first became Minister. Mr Sedwill was her Home office handler then …
Local elections today – polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm. No excuses: go and vote and if you cannot vote for any of the candidates, especially Tory ones, spoil your ballot paper by writing what you think of them and May. They will be read by the candidates – I know, I was a scrutineer at vote counts.