Drivel hosed out of him like mud from an elephant’s trunk: QUENTIN LETTS on Defence Secretary Gavin Williams (aka ‘Private Pike’)
Gavin Williamson, or ‘Private Pike’ as Philip Hammond is said to call him, has been Defence Secretary for a year. One word you might think he had learned to pronounce was ‘adversaries’. But no. Out it comes with the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble.
A Defence Secretary is meant to fill people with trepidation, so in some ways Mr Williamson is superb at his job. Trouble is, he frightens us loyal British subjects. Pointing in the wrong direction, old bean. It’s the enemy you’re meant to terrify. Or en-EM-y, as he would possibly say.
Yesterday he gave a Commons Statement on the ‘MDP’. Everything in the military world is reduced to acronyms. The MDP is the Modernising Defence Programme, but it may equally stand for Minister Deploys Prattle.
Jeepers, what pseudo-business drivel we heard. It came hosing out of him like mud from an elephant’s trunk.
Gavin Williamson, or ‘Private Pike’ as Philip Hammond is said to call him, has been Defence Secretary for a year
‘We have taken steps,’ he droned, the voice part Alan Bennett, part Network Rail Tannoy, ‘to forward base the Army, enhancing our global posture.’ Shoulders back, lovely boys. ‘We will embrace modern business practices and establish a culture that nurtures transformation and innovation. We also need to create financial headroom for modernisation including investment in a programme of digitally enabled transformation.
‘To help achieve these goals we will establish a permanent Net Assessment Unit, as well as a Defence Policy Board of external experts, to bring challenge to Defence policy and strategy.’
I don’t know about you, Vladimir Putin, but this gulpy gamin gives me the willies.
Theresa May went into a defensive ball like a hedgehog, says…
Hell yeah, I’m tough, No one messes with me! QUENTIN LETTS…
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In vain did one search for much that was strikingly new in his statement. Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith called it ‘underwhelming’, said there was ‘no new money’ and noted that the MDP ran to just 28 pages, of which ten were photographs or graphics. MDP: Mostly Drawings and Pictures?
A more expansive Secretary of State would have flown into raptures about his blessed programme, booming enthusiasm. Mr Williamson is not such a gusher. He seems to have been told – by a voice coach, perhaps – to speak slowly in as deep a timbre as he can muster.
Schoolboys do that when they are keen to show their voices are breaking. Hello, Timmy, fancy a sherbet Dip-Dab? ‘Yeah, okay mate,’ Timmy replies, trying to sound like Lee Marvin in Wandering Star.
A Defence Secretary is meant to fill people with trepidation, so in some ways Mr Williamson is superb at his job
Kevan Jones (Lab, N Durham), a former minister, said the statement was just ‘general waffle’. Did Jonesy mean General Herbert Waffle of the Defence Staff? Mark Francois (Con, Rayleigh & Wickford), also once a minister, wished Mr Williamson luck as he ‘goes into battle with the Chancellor’. Brexiteer Francois is one of the 117 Tory MPs who voted against Theresa May last week. Referring to the Chancellor’s swipe about Eurosceptic MPs being ‘extremists’, Mr Francois told Mr Williamson: ‘If he goes toe to toe with the Chancellor he will find he has 117 allies he didn’t know he had.’
A blushing Williamson replied: ‘That’s incredibly charming of him.’ The only money he really talked about was £1.8billion of ‘investment’ in the Armed Forces, at least £1billion of which had already been announced. Compare that to the £39billion we are told we must pay to the EU for a half-hearted Brexit and you can see why John Redwood (Con, Wokingham) invited Mr Williamson to bid for some of the ‘Brexit bonanza’ if we escape the EU without a treaty. ‘Ooh,’ said Mr Williamson, ‘I possibly could be tempted’.
It may be a measure of how Mr Williamson is regarded by veteran Defence bods that HMS Nicholas Soames (Con, Mid-Sussex) opted to stay out of yesterday’s exchanges.
Over in the House of Lords, meanwhile, the Government again refused to hold an inquiry into the way Wiltshire police tarnished the name of the late Sir Edward Heath.
Ted may have been a difficult old stodge but he still has many admirers in the Upper House. An early capitulation by the Home Office might save everyone an awful lot of grief.
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