Gavin Williamson’s insult of Marcus Rashford is latest sacking offence – Tom Richmond

IT was already abundantly clear that Gavin Williamson could not differentiate his proverbial posterior from his elbow long before he mistook Marcus Rashford – the footballer who should be Education Secretary – for rugby star Maro Itoje.

Why is Education Secretary Gavin Williamson still in his job this weekend?
Why is Education Secretary Gavin Williamson still in his job this weekend?

This is why The Yorkshire Post was the first newspaper to demand Scarborough-born Williamson’s resignation in an editorial on January 5, this year, saying he had no qualifications for the role and that a generation of pupils were being “let down by the most incompetent, ineffectual and inept Education Secretary in living memory”.

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And nothing in the interim has convinced this newspaper – or myself – to reassess this appraisal. Not one Tory MP complained about it – or our follow-up call on August 13, in the wake of A-level and GCSE results, for Williamson to be replaced before the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

File photos of (from the left) Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he had met England footballer Rashford online when he had in fact met rugby player Itoje, it has been reported.

Yet, given the collective loss of confidence in the Frank Spencer of politics extends beyond the education establishment to the whole country, it is even more bewildering that Boris Johnson described his under-fire colleague as “heroic” in exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions shortly before the Rashford own goal emerged.

Either Johnson is a liar or delusional – or both. The Conservative leader is certainly not “heroic” after building up hopes of a Cabinet reshuffle before bottling the decision because, presumably, he thinks education policy is in safe hands.

It is not – and Williamson’s disrespect for Rashford, the Manchester United and England striker who has done more than most to assist the struggle against child food poverty, further confirms why this apology of a Cabinet minister is not fit for purpose.

Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rahsford has been one of the heroes of the Covid pandemic.

First, Williamson claimed – erroneously – in an interview that he had taken part in a Zoom call with Rashford, a humble role model like no other, when, in fact, it had been “man mountain” Itoje, an impressive individual in his own right.

Next, it emerged that Rashford’s correspondence to Williamson’s office had received little more than “cut and paste” responses when the footballer knows, from his own childhood experiences, far more about the importance of levelling up than every single Cabinet minister.

And, finally, the realisation that Williamson had not found time to meet Rashford and listen to a campaigner whose motivation is not party politics; merely a desire to help the most disadvantaged children of all.

These failures are just as contemptible as every previous policy gaffe and U-turn. A serious politician would have resigned long ago. An even more serious Prime Minister would also not have indulged such an abject failure of Education Secretary for so long – or even appointed him in the first place.

So why, Boris Johnson, is Gavin Williamson still in post this weekend? And, if Prime Minister, it is because you fear that your Education Secretary, as a former chief whip, is in possession of incriminating information that could compromise, how do you explain such a state of affairs to all those students and schools still left at Williamson’s mercy? And Marcus Rashford.

AN interesting ruling from Sir Lindsay Hoyle – the Speaker has decreed that MPs should not accuse the Prime Ministers, or others, of “lying”, and says such language will continue to be called out of order following the expulsion of Labour’s Dawn Butler just before the summer recess.

He believes it will distract MPs and has challenged them to make stronger arguments – a fair point. But it is very difficult when Boris Johnson is so economical with the truth – even his Ministers looked on in disbelief at the brazenness of some of his pronouncements this week on Afghanistan, social care and the NHS.

And the Speaker’s comments coincided with this newspaper’s editorial on Tuesday citing, without hesitation, Johnson’s “falsehoods” on social care; namely the non-existent, ready-made plan he highlighted on the day that he took office and his bogus promises to work on a cross-party basis.

It’s the first time, since I joined The Yorkshire Post in 2004 that such a serious assertion has been made against any premier. It’s also why there’s little sympathy for the blinkered who continue to contend that Johnson deserves the benefit of the doubt due to Covid’s costly impact on social care.

Wrong. If he had produced his “alleged” plan when he first took office, and sought to engage with other parties at that time, Johnson might have been better placed to make progress when the pandemic struck.

THANK you to regular reader Roger Backhouse for sending me a cutting from Modern Railways magazine in which Sir Michael Holden, a former chair of the East Coast Main Line, ranks the past 10 transport secretaries.

He was objective about Grant Shapps by rating him fifth – presumably before this week’s cack-handed tweet about Pacer trains being converted into schools.

And the industry leader’s assessment about Chris “Failing” Grayling’ confirmed what we always knew: “Disastrous at Justice and managed to repeat the trick at Transport.” The surprise is that Grayling was ranked 10th – out of 10. That’s one of Old Failing’s better achievements.

TALKING of low standards, Boris Johnson’s “thatch” looks like it has had a trim. I’m trying to work out whether the “scruffbag” went to the barbers before he spent last weekend as the Queen’s guest at Balmoral – or Her Majesty paid for it with her winnings after her horse Chalk Stream won at 13-2 at Ascot shortly before the PM and his family arrived at her Scottish retreat. Do tell Ma’am.

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