(Update: Williamson was sacked on May 1st 2019)
Gavin Williamson embodies the essence of the modern Tory: Unfettered venality.
Theresa May appointed him as Defence Secretary because she prefers a cabinet of limited intelligence and with an absence of self-awareness and shame. She needs criminally ambitious fools, each with a very narrow focus of interest that is necessarily an interest unhampered by integrity or by moral caveats. These small-minded characters are less likely to trouble May as leader than would a minister with a grasp of the true purpose of government or one with any incisive independent thoughts, if such Tories exist at all.
Gavin Williamson, with the charm of a coffin salesman who keeps a check on the health of all the elderly people in the neighbourhood, is the epitome of what is needed to fit the profile for a May cabinet. Michael Fallon’s seedy departure created the opening for him. A year or so of obedient service as a parliamentary whip helped him get the job.
At the Ministry of Defence Williamson knows his purpose is to enhance the arms manufacturers’ profits at the expense of the British tax payers. Thus, his main public role is to help stoke fear of potential threats. He invokes threats rather than screams for war because the latter will always receive huge opposition; threats are easier to use as tools of persuasion and as justification for arms spending. He must ramp up the potential capacity of an enemy’s capability to rain down furious anger upon us.
The Novichok attack in Salisbury on a (well-paid) British agent Sergei Skripal was a convenient incident for Williamson and his new arms industry friends. Despite facts not yet acquired and despite an array of contradictory reports, the voice of fear sprung into action. “If we doubted the threat Russia poses to our citizens, we only have to look at the shocking example of their reckless attack in Salisbury,” proclaimed Williamson (cited in Williamson on defence spending) as he announced a £45 million investment in a “chemical weapons defence centre.” (Such a centre already exists and has been subject to a lot of Tory cuts recently but Williamson is not a politician who allows facts to interfere with his performance.)
In a speech at arms manufacturer Rolls-Royce – happy recipients of tax-payers money to increase their profits – and sponsored by right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange, Williamson channelled General Jack Ripper from Dr. Strangelove.
WILLIAMSON: “You see it in the House of Commons and you listen to members of parliament from all parties on the backbenches. That is what they are wanting to see: Britain standing together against this great threat.
RIPPER: “Your commie has no regard for human life, not even his own. And for this reason, men, I want to impress upon you the need for extreme watchfulness. The enemy may come individually, or he may come in strength. He may even come in the uniform of our own troops. But however he comes, we must stop him.”
WILLIAMSON: “What is also clear is that the Kremlin is using its growing hybrid capabilities to subvert, undermine and influence countries around the world. Its cyber operations are active and brazen. It uses social media to muddy the waters and spread confusion. Last year, Russia’s military intelligence organisation directed the NotPetya ransomware activity, overwhelming systems in Ukraine, from its power grid to its postal service, and causing hundreds of millions of pounds of damage to companies around the world, including here in the UK.”
RIPPER: “A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works. I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love…Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake…but I do deny them my essence.”
WILLIAMSON: “But Russia is capable of much more. It is already increasingly using proxies to undermine sovereign states. Its involvement in the Ukraine conflict has cost thousands of lives. Meanwhile, Russia is also using its operatives insidiously to interfere in the political processes of other nations. Security authorities have compelling evidence to show Russia was involved in the attempted 2016 coup in Montenegro, just prior to that country’s accession to Nato. And, if we doubted the threat Russia poses to our citizens, we only have to look at the shocking example of their reckless attack in Salisbury. Our soldiers stand sentinel with our Nato allies in Estonia and Poland to deter this threat.”
RIPPER: “For the sake of our country and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation. My boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won’t stop them now. So let’s get going. There’s no other choice. God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids.”
WILLIAMSON: “Russia should shut up and go away.”
Williamson chooses to present the world as divided with competing entities. Without constant threat, he could not emit stupefying speeches demanding more money for arms. He adopts a persona of someone who revels in war and conflict but it is just an arms sales pitch. “It is often described as a cool war that we are entering into. I would say it’s feeling exceptionally chilly at the moment,” he said as Britain imports gas from Russia and the Tories enjoy nice donations from wealthy Russian criminals.
As with his predecessor Fallon, it is all about the money. Taxes channelled via government into the accounts of Rolls-Royce, BAE, Lockheed Martin, etc. Theatrical exclamations about the threat from Putin dominate Williamson’s behaviour; meanwhile, British weaponry and British expertise continue to assist the Saudi slaughter of Yemeni civilians.