Whether or not Gavin Williamson leaked is the wrong issue to focus on

As is almost the case with any leak, the surrounding debate over the leaker themselves, their motives and character has far outweighed the debate about the relevant policy question.

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Gavin Williamson has been sacked. Theresa May says it was because the inquiry into the leak of information from a meeting of the National Security Council, about the decision to press ahead with allowing Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to build parts of the United Kingdom's new 5G network, to the Telegraph heavily implicates him. Williamson, for his part, has swore on “his children's lives” that he is not the leak. 

Peter Ricketts, the UK's first national security advisor, has told Newsnight that a leak from the NSC constitutes a breach of the Official Secrets Act, while the opposition parties have also called for a criminal inquiry into Williamson. The case against the former Defence Secretary rests on an 11-minute phone call between him and Steve Swinford, the Telegraph journalist who broke the story. 

Downing Street's position is that Williamson has been sacked and that is the end of it, a position that one feels is unlikely to hold, given that Williamson is reluctant to go quietly. Friends of Williamson have briefed that he believes that Mark Sedwill, the UK's top civil servant, has fitted him up as part of a grudge against him, while Williamson has publicly described the inquiry as a  “kangaroo court”. The opposition parties obviously aren't going to get off the topic, either. 

As is almost the case with any leak, the surrounding debate over the leaker themselves, their motives and character has far outweighed the debate about the relevant policy question. You can make a fair, and in my view wholly correct, case that if Williamson disagreed with the decision he should have resigned and said so. You can make a fair case that the debate over Huawei's fitness to be involved is about a desire on the part of bits of the British right to get closer to Donald Trump's America, rather than a serious account of the risks of working with Huawei. You can say that look, at the infrastructure level, there is no realistic prospect of building spy-free kit, and it really doesn't matter if it is built by Huawei, the Americans, or some bloke down the Roman Road. 

But all of those are issues that deserve more prominence than the row over Williamson. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.