Gavin Williamson 'threatens to bring down Theresa May' in defence spending row
Gavin Williamson has threatened to bring down Theresa May in a row over defence spending, it has been reported.
The Defence Secretary threatened to “break” the Prime Minister unless she coughs up an extra £20bn for the MoD, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The row broke out after the Chancellor declared there was no more money for defence, housing or education following a £20bn cash boost for the NHS.
But in a meeting between the pair, the Prime Minister reportedly turned down Mr Williamson’s demands, questioning whether there was a need for the UK to be a “tier-one military power”.
According to the paper, the Defence Secretary had promised military chiefs he would secure the funding, boasting: “I made her - and I can break her.”
It is understood that Mr Williamson has the support of many Tory MPs who are said to be prepared to vote down the next Budget unless the Prime Minister agrees to a stump up the money.
Defence select committee chair Julian Lewis has also given his backing to Mr Williamson, saying: “There needs to be no political risk to the PM if she does the right thing.
“I’ve been in parliament 20 years and have never known such unanimity. If the NHS can get £20bn extra the defence deserves that just to stand still.”
An ally of Mr Williamson added: “The PM has no stronger ally than Gavin. He never lost a vote as chief whip and he kept her job after the General Election by negotiating with the DUP.
“But there’s a strong feeling No 10 and No 11 are both failing to recognise the threats we face.
“Gavin is right to fight for the defence budget so our troops can counter the threats and keep Britain as a major world player.”
One Conservative MP told The Sunday Times: “If I was given 15 minutes with the Prime Minister I would impress upon her how absolutely serious this is. It’s about keeping the country safe because at the moment our ability to defend ourselves is in serious danger.”
However, one cabinet minister lashed out at the ambitious Defence Secretary, telling PoliticsHome: “Gavin just can’t help overreaching himself.”
Another Conservative MP played down the idea that a coup was brewing, saying: “There is no appetite to bring down the PM but there have been three debates over the last year on defence spending so she should take not about the strength of feeling on this issues.”
A source close to the Defence Secretary told PoliticsHome: “I don’t recognise the headline comments or know where they’re meant to have come from.”