Daily Mail

Gavin’s face had look of a boy out­side head’s study

- HENRY DEEDES SKETCH Gavin Williamson · Boris Johnson · Matthew Hancock · Jeremy Hunt · Peter Wishart · Patrick Grady · Kate Green · Manchester · Madame Tussauds

RaM­BlInG. Wildly in­co­her­ent. Those beardy weirdies from Ex­tinc­tion Re­bel­lion were out in Par­lia­ment Square again yes­ter­day, sub­ject­ing all of us to hours of in­de­ci­pher­able gib­ber­ish.

De­spite be­ing sup­pos­edly ed­u­cated, they’re a de­cid­edly inar­tic­u­late rab­ble. Their speak­ers were about as stir­ring as the cider-fu­elled Mor­ris dancers at my lo­cal sum­mer fete. Mind you, things were no more in­spir­ing

in­side the Com­mons, where MPs were re­turn­ing from their sum­mer hols.

Fol­low­ing weeks of lip-chew­ing in­ep­ti­tude, that prize bun­gler Gavin Wil­liamson was treat­ing us to a state­ment on schools.

Yes, he’s still in his job. amaz­ing isn’t it? Per­haps he knows some­thing about Boris that we don’t. If so, all I can say is that it must be dy­na­mite.

The Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary ar­rived in the cham­ber at 4.42pm, col­laps­ing into his seat in an awk­wardly ar­ranged pile of limbs.

His face bore the anx­ious look of a child out­side the head mas­ter’s study, await­ing an in­evitable rol­lick­ing.

Over on the SnP benches, Pete Wishart (Perth and n Perthshire) and Pa­trick Grady (Glas­gow n) pointed and gig­gled ex­cit­edly. Wil­liamson kicked off by re­gur­gi­tat­ing the whole a-lev­els fi­asco.

HEwas ‘deeply sorry’ for what stu­dents had gone through last month. Once again, he seemed happy to lay the blame at Ofqual’s door. Though that didn’t pre­vent him of­fer­ing a short, nakedly in­sin­cere trib­ute to the ed­u­ca­tion quango’s de­part­ing chief Sally Col­lier.

That clothes peg-over-the-nose drawl of Wil­liamson’s re­ally is quite a thing. It could zap en­ergy from the large Hadron Col­lider. Barely 30 sec­onds into his state­ment, faces around the cham­ber were al­ready be­gin­ning to droop.

It was as if some­one had just flicked on a two-bar heater at Madame Tus­sauds. Op­po­si­tion benches were pre­dictably unim­pressed. labour’s shadow ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary Kate Green, in snazzy ze­bra stripes, was fu­ri­ous she’d only re­ceived a copy of Wil­liamson’s state­ment sev­eral min­utes be­fore.

not sure why. Oth­ers might have been grate­ful at be­ing spared hav­ing to read it. She ac­cused Wil­liamson of over­see­ing a sum­mer of ‘chaos, in­com­pe­tence and con­fu­sion’.

The SnP’s Carol Mon­aghan was also snippy about get­ting her copy of the state­ment so late. ‘I al­most had time to read it,’ she dead­panned.

lucy Pow­ell (lab, Manch­ester C) ac­cused Wil­liamson of ‘worse than in­com­pe­tence’, he ‘couldn’t just wash his hands of re­spon­si­bil­ity’ for th­ese far­ci­cal past weeks.

Wil­liamson stood there sop­ping it all up, as best he could, de­liv­er­ing his usual jar­gonis­tic, non­sen­si­cal an­swers.

Oc­ca­sion­ally he would rest his en­tire body­weight against the dis­patch box to feign non­cha­lance.

You do won­der how many more of th­ese ses­sions he can en­dure.

Com­pare his de­meanour to Matt Han­cock, who had ear­lier up­dated the House on the Government’s Covid-19 strat­egy.

Un­like Wil­liamson, the tribu­la­tions of high of­fice have no bear­ing on the Health Sec­re­tary’s well­be­ing.

not even a poorly re­ceived in­ter­view over the week­end, in which he need­lessly blath­ered on about a second lock­down, seems to have zapped his en­thu­si­asm.

Yes­ter­day he was zestier and zingier than a pitcher of aperol spritz. What a clever boy Matt had been: num­bers be­ing ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal were down, pa­tients re­quir­ing ven­ti­la­tors were down and the lat­est coro­n­avirus deaths stood at just two.

The track and trace sys­tem is sup­pos­edly whizz-bang (I’m not sure it is). His pre­de­ces­sor Jeremy Hunt, who now chairs the Health Se­lect Com­mit­tee, con­grat­u­lated him on his ‘im­pres­sive progress’.

JIMShan­non (DUP, Strang­ford) an­nounced he had ‘not been found want­ing’ dur­ing the cri­sis. Even Han­cock’s opposite num­ber, Jon ash­worth, gave him an easy ride.

The only sharp sur­prise he got came from his own side, when Sir Ed­ward leigh (Con, Gains­bor­ough) de­manded the Government ‘get back to be­ing a proper Con­ser­va­tive government’ and stop with all the nan­ny­ish re­stric­tions.

Sir Ed­ward com­plained that ‘the man in White­hall doesn’t know best. Es­pe­cially as he changes his mind ev­ery two min­utes’.

Han­cock en­dured two hours at the despatch box since he also had to host a ses­sion of de­part­men­tal ques­tions.

He looked like he could have hap­pily stayed in the cham­ber right un­til sup­per­time. His col­league in the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion, by con­trast, could not have bolted out of there fast enough.

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