Defence Secretary Williamson revealed as private backer of an amnesty for soldiers

Despite this Sun ” exclusive,”  the ambitious Defence Secretary – the man who as chief whip negotiated the Conservative-DUP parliamentary deal – will have other things on his mind today – like which way will he jump on Theresa May’s Brexit plan?

 

GAVIN Williamson has secretly backed an amnesty for IRA terrorists — as the price for ending the witch-hunt of troops, The Sun can reveal.

The Defence Secretary wants Theresa May to grant British troops who served in Northern Ireland a pardon to stop them being hounded.

This looks like the latest example of a member of May’s divided cabinet out on a solo run even after he had been turned down once. This from the man who claimed of May, ” I made her and I can break her.”

On the merits of the case, it seems an extraordinary length to go to, to avoid the chance of  former soldiers being prosecuted  – unless Williamson believes the evidence against some soldiers is stronger than that against former paramilitaries.

The Commons Defence Select Committee stumbled on the same idea when they backed an amnesty for former security forces just before the ill-fated general election last year. Almost as an afterthought, they accepted it might in the end require a general “statute of limitations”. The committee  recently renewed it – despite the fact that an amnesty is not  included in the official government consultation. Williamson we now learn supported  the backbenchers  but  Theresa May and Karen Bradley rejected  the bid.

Who will break ranks now and take him up on it?  Will Williamson now “ shut up” as he urged Putin on to do, after the worst possible timing  for flying  this kite –  or did he choose  the timing  to attract just enough attention to try to get himself noticed in the general clamour of a divided and ill disciplined cabinet?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London