Sir Michael Fallon: Loyal, fierce and now with a reputation tarnished
PUBLISHED: 09:06 02 November 2017
The Sevenoaks MP first entered Westminster in 1983
After spending years commanding a reputation as a reliable figure in government, Sir Michael Fallon was ultimately undone by his long-trusted judgement.
The Tory Sevenoaks MP entered office when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister in 1983 and held an array of ministerial positions under four Conservative leaders.
By the time David Cameron was in Downing Street, Sir Michael, now known for his composure under tough questioning, was routinely called upon to represent the government for TV grillings.
His time as defence secretary was characterised by his role overseeing British military efforts against the Islamic State terror group in the Middle East, which helped lead to it being all but routed from Iraq and Syria by 2017.
But despite surviving the changing political tide over several decades, Sir Michael’s fall from grace began when it was revealed he had touched the knee of a female journalist in 2002.
Like many prospective MPs, Mr Fallon got his first job in politics as a researcher for the Conservative Party in the late 1970s.
In 1983, his stock had risen so much that he was selected to fight for a parliamentary seat during a by-election in Darlington, which he lost to Labour’s Oswald O’Brien.
A general election lurked round the corner, however, allowing Sir Michael to secure the seat by 3,438 votes just 77 days later, on June 9 1983.
After holding the seat in the 1987 election, he was made parliamentary private secretary to the energy secretary Cecil Parkinson and became Margaret Thatcher’s assistant whip the following year.
As pressure mounted on the Iron Lady to resign in 1990, Sir Michael joined a small cadre of supporters including Michael Portillo to visit the embattled PM.
He attempted to persuade the long-time Tory leader to remain.
She later wrote of the encounter: “They arrived about midnight and tried in vain to convince me that all was not lost ... I said that I would sleep on my own resignation, as I always did with important matters, before making my final decision; but it would be very difficult to prevail if the Cabinet did not have their hearts in the campaign.”
Sir Michael spent time in the political wilderness after a 1992 election defeat - returning at Sevenoaks as the Conservatives were cast from government in 1997.
By the time the Tories had returned to power in a coalition government in 2010, he had climbed to the senior party ranks and was appointed deputy chairman.
The veteran MP then jumped between several ministerial posts under Mr Cameron until he was handed the defence brief in 2014, which he held through two chaotic elections and the EU referendum.
Then in October 2017, allegations of sexual impropriety in public life began to gather momentum after Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of being a prolific sex attacker.
The scandal eventually engulfed Westminster and it emerged Sir Michael had touched journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee during a dinner 15 years earlier.
Despite the journalist brushing it off as “mildly amusing”, Sir Michael was forced to apologise and announced his resignation days later.