Gavin Williamson has been appointed as UK defence secretary, after the resignation on Wednesday of Michael Fallon. Mr Williamson, 41, had been the Conservatives’ chief whip since last year, forming a key part of Theresa May’s inner circle. He is perhaps best known for keeping a pet tarantula called Crocus in his office, partly to intimidate MPs.
Other potential candidates for the role were Tobias Ellwood, a defence minister, and Penny Mordaunt, a pensions minister who would have been the first woman to become defence secretary.
The appointment comes after Sir Michael resigned on Wednesday night, saying his behaviour in the past had “fallen short”. After revelations that he repeatedly touched a journalist’s knee 15 years ago, he could not guarantee to Mrs May that further allegations of sexual misconduct would not emerge.
Mr Williamson is 24 years younger than Mr Fallon, and was elected as an MP in 2010. Mrs May has faced calls to bring in younger MPs into her cabinet, as part of a drive to refresh the Conservatives’ image following the loss of their parliamentary majority in June. However, Downing Street is keen to avoid a broader reshuffle.
Julian Smith, previously Mr Williamson’s deputy in the whips’ office, will take over as chief whip.