Gavin Williamson: Gaffe-prone ‘Private Pike’ who faced repeated calls to resign


avin Williamson came under repeated pressure to resign over his handling of disruption to schools during the pandemic and the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students amid cancelled exams.

Only last week, the 45-year-old MP for South Staffordshire faced further criticism after he said he had met footballer Marcus Rashford online, when he had instead talked to rugby player Maro Itoje.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Mr Williamson – who acquired the nickname Private Pike, after the hapless Dad’s Army character – said he believed he had met Rashford, who forced the Government into a U-turn on free school meals provision during the pandemic, on a video call.

But he had met England rugby star Itoje, who has campaigned for ministers to close the digital divide.

Born and raised in Scarborough, Mr Williamson went to a local comprehensive school and sixth-form college before studying at the University of Bradford.

His state school background was not enough to win over many teachers, students and parents during the Covid-19 pandemic, which dominated Mr Williamson’s time in office and led to a series of U-turns.

In summer 2020, he faced calls to resign over the A-level and GCSE results row after the Government was forced into a U-turn following protests over the downgrading of thousands of results.

He also received criticism over the recovery plan to help pupils catch up and confusion around children returning to class amid Covid-19.

In December, heads and unions were not happy when Mr Williamson threatened legal action against Greenwich council if it failed to keep its schools open to all pupils until the end of term, despite a rise in cases.

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