A straight-faced Mr Sheerman told the Commons: “This is one of the greatest crises that any of us can remember and, in the national interests, surely even for a short period of time until recess, we should work across benches to sort this crisis?
“I don’t want any laughter here, but I have a great deal of experience in education and there is no education minister. On a short-term basis, I would be very happy to help."
As the comment was met with laughter and shouts of 'Barry for PM', Mr Sheerman smiled and added: “Unpaid, but our constituents would want us across benches to work together to get through this petty politics and get this Government working again.”
Mr Sheerman was previously a lecturer before his career in politics and has chaired the Education Select Committee in the past.
Cabinet Office Michael Ellis replied: “I thank him, but his services are not required and the reason his services will not be required is because there are a plethora of talented and dedicated individuals on the benches behind me who will serve in this Government.”
At the time he was speaking, the Department for Education had been left just one minister in the run-up to GCSE and A-level results after Michelle Donelan quit as education secretary after less than 36 hours in the role.
In her letter of resignation, prompted by the scandal over former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, she said that she was “very worried about the prospect of no ministers in the Department as we approach results’ day”, and that the “impact on students is real”.
Baroness Barran was the only remaining minister in the department but James Cleverly has now been appointed as Ms Donelan's replacement.
The benches behind Mr Ellis as he addressed the urgent question from deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner were very sparsely populated, with a group of five Conservative MPs directly behind the frontbench being the largest cluster.
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