Analysis: The Westminster Sex Scandal is probably the beginning of May’s downfall

Gavin Williamson, the new Defence Secretary, in Downing Street, London. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/PA

Had Theresa May been in a stronger position, with a high personal approval rating, a majority government, no government sex scandal, and not making an absolute mess of the Brexit negotiations, one would call the appointment of Gavin Williamson as Secretary of State for Defence a brilliant move. He is a ruthless political operator, and the one person you’d want most in a top cabinet job.

Given his record as PPS to David Cameron and Chief Whip to Theresa May, one might assume that he’d been taking notes from the late Ian Richardson’s portrayal of Francis Urquhart in the BBC’s House of Cards Trilogy. He is ruthless, effective, and, given his extensive knowledge on just about every member of the Parliamentary Conservative Party, knows exactly how to manipulate his colleagues in order to get exactly what he wants.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, she is in a very weak position.

The way I see it, she has two main problems on her hands.

The first comes from Gavin Williamson. While he was effective in getting Theresa May elected as leader of the Conservative Party, one would be mistaken to think that this means he is completely and utterly loyal to her. Gavin Williamson is a man of ambition. It is well known that he is after the top job, along with many other Conservative MPs, particularly now after the mess Theresa May made of the general election. Speculation has ensued that Williamson used his position as Chief Whip to manipulate May into appointing him Defence Secretary with a view to staging a coup against her. Others think that she is going to hand over to Williamson willingly after the Brexit talks have been completed. Either way, Theresa May is under threat from her new Defence Secretary, and any move he makes to try and boot her out would alienate his colleagues in the PCP (many of which are dismayed at his appointment) at best and de-stabilise the entire government at worst, paving the way either for a vote of no confidence led by Labour or the calling of an early election anyway.

The second comes from the sex scandal itself. Sir Michael Fallon may have been the first cabinet casualty in this scandal, but he almost certainly will not be the last. It is almost inevitable that in the coming days, weeks, or even months, we will see more and more cabinet resignations and more and more Conservative MPs implicated in the scandal. The Democratic Unionists will not like this. As deplorable as I think those people are, they have a very strong sense of their own morality. It would be very, very foolish to discount the role the DUP may play in this government’s downfall. It is incredibly possible that the DUP would withdraw their support from the government on moral grounds, making a successful vote of no confidence in this government all the more likely.

It is interesting to think that the reason this government will fall may not be due to Brexit after all, but sex.

There’s no knowing when this all may happen, if it does happen, but I would not be surprised if either towards the end of this year or the beginning of the next year, there’s an early general election and we wake up the day after to Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn making a speech outside Number 10.

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