On Thursday, November 2, Theresa May replaced Michael Fallon as defense secretary with Gavin Williamson, but she also made an equally important appointment.
The new Chief Whip Julian Smith went into Number 10 this morning, but, eh, no one recognised him! pic.twitter.com/FD7wi4PnQM— Tom Boadle (@TomBoadle) 2 November 2017
Williamson's chief whip position was given to Julian Smith, who will have a pivotal job over the next 18 months as he tries to cajole Tory MPs and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to vote for various Brexit bills which were outlined in the Queen's Speech in June.
Compared to his predecessor, Smith is quite a colorful character.
I am delighted to have been appointed by the Prime Minister as Government Chief Whip. https://t.co/sZPWEBQhrd— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) 3 November 2017
In 2015 Smith, who is MP for Skipton & Ripon in North Yorkshire, argued for parliament to be moved temporarily to the North of England while repairs were carried out to the Palace of Westminster.
Wanted Paper Prosecuted Over Snowden Files
Smith once called for The Guardian newspaper to be prosecuted after they published allegations from former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden.
Julian Smith is regarded as rather sinister by some MPs. Should be perfect for the role— Tim Shipman (@ShippersUnbound) 2 November 2017
"The Guardian focused on sending abroad revelations not about the American NSA or whistleblowing. They chose to distribute information about our own intelligence agents and GCHQ… To communicate, not just publish, any identifying information about GCHQ personnel is a terrorist offence. This is not press freedom — this is the Guardian's devastating impact on national security," Smith said in 2013 when he called for a debate in Westminster Hall.
The priority for Mr. Smith however, will be steering a mountain of legislation through parliament regarding Britain's exit from the European Union.
Meet the new Government Chief Whip, Julian Smith, who argued that the Single Market is vital for jobs and our children's futures last year. pic.twitter.com/IjMlwchIac— Vote Leave Watch (@VoteLeaveWatch) 2 November 2017
Campaigned for Remain
"From all I have seen in business and as an MP, I urge you to vote Remain," it ends.
So to clarify. Gavin Williamson the new Defence Secretary is an ardent Remainer. The chap to replace him as the new Tory chief whip Julian Smith campaigned for a Remain vote as well.#OpenYourEyes pic.twitter.com/QHM4k2xHfY— Thomas Evans (@ThomasEvansGB) 2 November 2017
He has now, like many Tory MPs, done a complete U-turn and will be in charge of the effort to force them to vote for Brexit and for changing numerous UK laws which are currently tied into European legislation.
A former recruitment executive he was elected to Parliament in 2010 and joined the whips' office in 2015. He has now been promoted from Deputy Chief Whip.
Echoes of House of Cards
The chief whip role is one traditionally reserved for rather bruising characters, who are able to intimidate fresh-faced backbenchers in particular, into towing the party line and overcoming any qualms they may have about contradicting promises they may have made to their constituents.
Williamson was seen as a "sinister" figure and even kept a tarantula in his desk.
In the original 1990s TV drama House of Cards, which was set in Westminster, the main character was Francis Urquhart — played by the late Ian Richardson — a Machiavellian figure who was the chief whip in a Conservative government.
Urquhart manipulated and even blackmailed MPs into doing his bidding and eventually maneuvers himself into becoming prime minister.
Kevin Spacey — currently under investigation over sexual assault allegations — reprised the role in Washington as Congressman Frank Underwood, the House Majority Whip.