The UK education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has been described as self-serving, venomous and in a rush to ascend the greasy pole by the former Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan in the latest extracts from his diaries.
“In quite the most extraordinary cabinet appointment I can think of, Gavin Williamson has been appointed defence secretary. It is absolutely absurd. He seems to have pushed himself forward for this undeserved promotion. It is a brazenly self-serving manoeuvre that will further embed the view of him as a sly schemer, which he undoubtedly is,” Duncan wrote in November 2017.
“He is also ludicrously unqualified for the heavyweight job of defence secretary, having never run anything. His experience amounts to having been a fireplace salesman, then bag-carrier for two PMs, then chief whip for a year. What on earth was the PM thinking?
“If I were more precious, I’d be pretty damned annoyed that I didn’t get it myself. But, as ever, scheming triumphs over loyalty and suitability.”
In other passages, Duncan says Williamson is suspected of briefing journalists against Conservative colleagues for his own gain and says he is “universally detested” as defence secretary – a role from which he was sacked in 2019 – having “seriously overplayed his hand” as he rushed to “ascend the greasy pole” and get the job.
Duncan calls Williamson “over-ambitious, claiming he was pushing for the position of home secretary when Amber Rudd resigned over the Windrush scandal, and denounces him as a “venomous, self-seeking little shit” as he accuses him of working against the then prime minister, Theresa May.
Elsewhere in the diaries, published by the Daily Mail, Duncan says the Foreign Office in which he served had “lost its way” and the man leading it – Boris Johnson, now the prime minister – “adds nothing to it”.
Duncan writes: “Amid a long succession of characterful foreign secretaries, he is Harold Wilson’s George Brown without the alcohol.”
While he insists May must be supported by MPs, he offers a pessimistic assessment of her character, saying she lacks charisma and, even in private conversation, appears “frightened to express an opinion on anything in case it comes back at her later”.
He writes: “Nothing illustrates the weakness of the prime minister more than the visual awkwardness with which she joined [a] photo op [for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage]. Gangly, looking around as if lost, no poise or presence. Charisma bypass. No personality.”