Gavin Williamson could have been Prime Minister, says man who replaced him as North Yorkshire county councillor

Former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson
Former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

The man who succeeded former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson as a county councillor in his native North Yorkshire has described him as a "young local man who made good and who could even have become Prime Minister".

David Jeffels took over as councillor for Seamer and Derwent Valley after Mr Williamson, who had the elected position between 2001 and 2005, left to unsuccessfully try and become MP for Blackpool and Fleetwood.

Mr Williamson, who was dramatically fired by Theresa May yesterday after being accused of leaking discussions from a meeting of the National Security Committee, was born in Scarborough to Labour supporting parents and grew up in the area.

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He was educated in Scarborough, at East Ayton Primary School, followed by state comprehensive Raincliffe School and Scarborough Sixth Form College, before doing a social sciences degree at the University of Bradford.

In 2001, while still only 24, he was elected as a North Yorkshire county councillor in the Seamer and Ayton ward, before leaving the council in 2005 to pursue his Parliamentary ambitions. He was eventually elected as MP for South Staffordshire in 2010.

Coun Jeffels, a former chairman of North Yorkshire County Council, described his predecessor as a hard-working and effective young politician.

He told The Yorkshire Post: "He quickly emerged as someone who was enthusiastic and ambitious and I'm sure that had he remained a member of NYCC he would have emerged as a leading member, Gavin worked hard for the villages in the division and was well respected and it is sad that his Parliamentary political career in the Cabinet has ended.

"The fact that Gavin rose to national recognition in the political world won him many plaudits because he was a man who had attended the village school at East Ayton as a youngster before going into secondary education at Scarborough - a young local man who had made good and who could even have become Prime Minister."

In 2003, Mr Williamson was appointed as 'Young People's Champion', a role where he worked with the county's Connecting Youth Culture project to represent tens of thousands of young people.

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John Weighell, who was leader of North Yorkshire County Council at the time and remains a Bedale councillor, said: "At the time he come on he was a very young man and was one of the youngest councillors. From being someone in their mid-20s to someone in their 40s you are a very different person.

"He was enthusiastic and ambitious and did take a full part in the work of the county council but his ambition was always elsewhere. That is why he left after four years. It was no secret that he was on the candidate list for for Parliament at the time.

"The only role he played at the county council was that I gave him the role of chairman of the children's scrutiny committee at the end of his four year period.

"He was a very young man starting his political career. He was new to politics and was feeling his way."

At one point, Mr Williamson attempted to be chosen as Conservative candidate for the Scarborough and Whitby constituency, but was beaten by Robert Goodwill.

Mr Goodwill, who was recently named as Agriculture Minister by the Prime Minister, told The Yorkshire Post that he was "very sad to see him go". He said: "Shame he won't be in Scarborough as Secretary of State for Armed Forces Day next year."