Smuggling The Dirty Laundry Out? Why Might May Pick Her Chief Whip For Defence Post?
Theresa May's choice of Gavin Williamson to replace Michael 'Odd Sexual Penchants' Fallon as Defence Secretary has shocked many people - but as outgoing Chief Whip, he has some unique qualifications, particularly in light of the ongoing sleaze scandal, which might have given him the whip hand.
Some media outlets have suggested that he basically 'appointed himself' to the post, which gives some indication of the amount of power the Chief Whip holds within the Conservative Party.
Dubbed 'Westminster's Secret Service' the Whips Office is widely held to be the repository of in-depth information about its MPs, particularly information which said MPs might be unhappy to see made public. The implied threat that this could happen is the 'sharpened carrot' used to encourage them to toe the party line.
Details of Members' private lives are recorded in the 'Dirt Book' which is held in the Chief Whip's safe. An Spectator article from 1995, which certainly bears re-reading in light of current events, says:
"The Whips freely admit that they seek to know all about the lives of their members - not for purposes of blackmail, but because they want to understand any political or personal pressure which may affect voting intentions. They enter details about the private lives of Tory MPs in what they call the Black Book or the Dirt Book, which is kept locked in the Chief Whip's safe at No 12.
'The Dirt Book is just a little book where you write down various things you know or hear about people that may or may not be true,' says Lord Whitelaw. 'I think you could make a very good guess what sorts of things it contains.'
Tim Fortescue is more forthcoming: 'Oh, scandalous stories. When you are trying to persuade a member to vote the way he didn't want to vote on a controversial issue — which is part of your job - it is possible to suggest that perhaps it would not be in his interest if people knew something or other - very mildly.'
This potentially explosive little tome will make interesting reading for Julian Smith as he takes over the office, you might think.
But no. A Tory Chief Whip's papers go with him when he leaves, and not into the Public Record Office. As such, any salacious information contained therein may not be revealed until many years later, potentially not until the death of the former Chief Whip.
So let's say - hypothetically speaking, of course - that Gavin Williamson's current 'Sleazopaedia' contains the sordid details about MPs included in the infamous 'Tory 36' list which made headlines this week. Well, that'd be that document spirited out of reach of any potential whistleblowers, wouldn't it?
Of course - hypothetically speaking again - it could simply be that the 'baby faced assassin' has spent his parliamentary life gathering information that would help him accrue power, making sure to keep on the right side of the current 'winners'. Weaving himself a little web of influence, you might say, inspired perhaps by his pet tarantula.
It isn't the first surprise appointment for him, either - he was made Chief Whip last year despite never having been a whip. A reward, perhaps, for the eagerness with which he turned his coat from Cameron and hitched his wagon to Theresa May's star.
Since he has no noticeable experience to bring to the role of Defence Secretary - with more than one MP suggesting that there were more suitable candidates - is it possible his real new job is helping Theresa May smuggle out the dirty laundry?