An education in sincerity from Justine Greening but more questions are raised over Jared O'Mara

The Yorkshire Post columnist Tom Richmond has his say on Justine Greening, Jared O'Mara and Gavin Williamson.
The Yorkshire Post columnist Tom Richmond has his say on Justine Greening, Jared O'Mara and Gavin Williamson.
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I’VE covered enough Ministerial visits over the years to know when a politician is going through the motions and can’t wait to leave. I sense quite a few members of the current Cabinet find trips to Yorkshire – and the North – to be a chore rather than a pleasure.

Every child will have an equal chance, promises Education Secretary Justine Greening

A very notable exception, I’m pleased to report, is Education Secretary Justine Greening. It was simply a privilege to be present when she returned to her former school, Oakwood High, in her home town of Rotherham to open its new facilities and talk to pupils about how her education inspired her, and how this same school is doing the same for them.

She was candid. She said she found it difficult to make the transition from primary school. She was honest. And she was uplifting. She told them not to be afraid to be “a bit sharp-elbowed” if they want to pursue new horizons and opportunities.

When the Secretary of State told me afterwards that this was one of the proudest days of her life – she never thought she would return to her school as Education Secretary – she clearly meant it. Likewise when the 48-year-old described her role as the best and most important role in government.

This matters. Inevitably, there’s talk, as Theresa May’s fragile Cabinet lurches from one political crisis to another, that Greening could be promoted.

However, as she told me, she has very big plans for education – the Remain-supporting politician now regards Brexit as “the enabler” – and she won’t be satisfied until she has presided over “equality of opportunity for all” so every child, regardless of their background or status, has access to a world-class education.

She cited early years education, careers advice and post-16 vocational courses as priorities and her cheery demeanour – Ms Greening is a people person in contrast to Mrs May – masks a spirited determination that stems from a childhood in South Yorkshire at a time of national industrial strife.

Appointed to her current post in July 2016, it would be a shame if she was removed from this key brief before she’s had time to implement her vision. If anything, this role needs to become more high-profile and the Government should be making more use of the Minister’s vim and verve so today’s young people become the most talented and skilled in history.

For, if Ms Greening succeeds, then the whole country has the potential to benefit from the vision of the first Education Secretary in history to have been taught at a comprehensive school.

And there’s no reason why she might – in time – not return to her old school as Britain’s first female Chancellor, or Prime Minister, of this great country. At a time when Britain appears bereft of great political visionaries, Justine Greening could be one person to help restore the nation’s faith in its leaders.

SHEFFIELD Hallam MP Jared O’Mara doesn’t appear to be keeping his head down, and getting on with the day job, after being suspended by the Labour Party for homophobic and misogynistic comments as Parliament’s sexual harassment scandal grows.

He’s still not made his maiden speech or asked any questions since being elected on June 8 in place of former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, a fine constituency MP. O’Mara was absent when the Commons held three votes on Tuesday night on the Finance Bill.

One of his Labour colleagues from Yorkshire said O’Mara should be tabling written questions by the dozen if he is shy about standing up in the Commons, but he has not done so. Another said he’d only spoken – fleetingly – to the backbencher twice in Parliament and that he did not appear to understand the level of responsibility involved.

Either way, I’m still to be convinced that Labour will do the right thing and fire O’Mara. There’s nothing to stop him claiming an MP’s salary for the rest of the Parliament as an independent.

For, if there was a by-election, the key issue would not be O’Mara’s record or Brexit in this pro-EU area, but Labour-controlled Sheffield Council’s mismanagement of a key contract that has led to the mass felling of trees in the so-called ‘outdoor city’.

What a mess.

I’M not sure Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss is the best qualified person to lecture the country on leadership when she observed that most people follow the example of either Winston Churchill or David Brent.

Judging by her response to the Boxing Day floods of December 2015, I’m afraid Brent – a buffoon-like boss in the BBC series The Office – would have done a better job.

Even more terrifying is that the then Environment Secretary is now presiding over the management of the public finances ahead of this month’s post-election Budget.


I’VE nothing against Gavin Williamson, the newly-appointed defence Secretary who grew up in Scarborough and went to university in Bradford.

Yet, given he has no previous experience of military matters and has never held a Ministerial role, wouldn’t it have been better to give the critical job to one of the many very able Tory ministers and MPs who have served in the Armed Forces? A curious choice.

RATHER than sending a team of over-paid and under-performing Premier League prima donnas to football’s World Cup next year, where they will crash out in the first round because they don’t know how to win, what about sending England’s World Cup-winning Under 17 and Under 20 squads?

They’d have nothing to lose and they would do this country proud with their effort and enthusiasm.

Read more:
Every child will have an equal chance, promises Education Secretary Justine Greening
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