Did Gavin Williamson make alarmist Russia accusations to deflect attention from his affair?
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson has been busy. In the space of one day he has saturated the media, accusing Russia of spying on the UK’s power grids to distract us all from another juicy tidbit: he’d been cheating on his wife.
On Friday it was Williamson’s name on everyone’s lips. Did he really just say that Russia is coming to get us? Are they spying on us all? Is the sky about to fall in? Such questions made the story of a sneaky kiss with a woman that wasn’t his wife seem insignificant – but that didn’t stop some from connecting the dots.
Deputy editor of the Guardian Paul Johnson’s eyebrows shot up at the news.
New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson had busy day yesterday:-Told Telegraph Russians are coming to kill us-Told Mail he’s had an affair?? pic.twitter.com/AgCnKrJqGJ— Paul Johnson (@paul__johnson) January 26, 2018
Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mail called Williamson’s big day of Russia accusations a “smokescreen.”
Mirror & Guardian start investigating harassment allegations so Gavin Williamson gives soft version to Mail then puts up Russian smokescreen with daft Telegraph interview. Hmmm...— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) January 28, 2018
Security chiefs have labelled Williamson’s Russia comments as “alarmist.” Others have suggested that the defence secretary “leaked” secret US intelligence to distract the media from the news of his affair in 2004 with his then-fellow fireplace salesperson.
Williamson’s attempt at playing politics in the big league seems to be backfiring. It seems that there may be more at stake than international diplomacy and the safety of “thousands and thousands” of Britons.
Top Tories are now locking horns over whether the defence secretary leaked secret information. The vultures appear to be circling Prime Minister Theresa May, and insider sources have suggested that the allegations of sharing classified information are simply attempts from rivals to derail his chances of seizing power if there was a leadership spill.
“This is an attempt to smear a cabinet minister in an attempt to promote the leadership campaign of someone else,” a friend of Williamson’s told The Times. The source also indicated that he believed allies of foreign secretary Boris Johnson were behind the accusations.
In response to the defence secretary’s anti-Russian allegations, spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry Igor Konashenkov told the Telegraph that Williamson “has lost his grasp on reason.”
“The minister’s fear of Russia photographing electric power plants or studying the routes of British gas pipelines is like something out of a children’s comic or the show ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus,’” Konashenkov said.
“If these statements are an attempt by [Williamson] to attract attention to himself, he will be far from the first defence minister to try to score political points by playing up the Russian threat to the British.”
A UK defence intelligence source labeled Williamson – who has only been in the top defence job for three months – as “amateurish” following his claims about Russia.
“No one has ever gone that far before in quantifying the potential risk to life as a result of a destructive attack by Russia, or any other hostile nation, against Britain’s infrastructure,” the source said.
“We wouldn’t want to speculate and be alarmist.”
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