Tories swipe PM is buying silence of Gavin Williamson with knighthood

‘Gavin knows where the bodies are buried’: Tories swipe that PM is buying hapless ‘Private Pike’ Williamson’s silence after handing ex-Cabinet minister a KNIGHTHOOD despite catastrophic Covid exams bungle and double-sacking

  • No10 has announced a knighthood for former Cabinet minister Gavin Williamson
  • Williamson was axed last September in Cabinet reshuffle amid school criticism
  • He had faced repeated criticism and calls to resign over exam chaos in 2020

Tories sniped at Boris Johnson for handing Gavin Williamson a knighthood today saying he ‘knows where the bodies are buried’. 

Downing Street revealed last night that the former Education Secretary has been given the political honour, despite twice being sacked from the Government.

Mr Williamson ran Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign in 2019 and previously served as chief whip, but was axed last September in a Cabinet reshuffle.

He had faced repeated criticism and calls to resign after overseeing months of Covid schools chaos and the exam result fiasco in 2020.

And some Tories were scathing about the knighthood, suggesting it was a reward for remaining loyal. 

‘It will do nothing to enhance the public’s view of our discredited honours system,’ one MP told MailOnline. 

‘He knows where the bodies are buried, and Boris has locked his shovel away.’  

Mr Williamson had previously been sacked as defence secretary by Theresa May after being blamed for leaks of top secret information on China from national security briefings. 

While in that post he attracted ridicule for telling Russia to ‘go away’ and shut up’ at the height of the Salisbury poisoning.

But No10 announced last night: ‘The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knighthood be conferred upon The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP.’

Asked why the knighthood was being announced now and not part of an honours list, Downing Street said it was a political appointment by the Conservative Party.   

Tories sniped at Boris Johnson for handing Gavin Williamson (pictured with a whip on his desk in a nod to his previous role in charge of party discipline) a knighthood saying he ‘knows where the bodies are buried’ 

He had faced repeated criticism and calls to resign after overseeing months of Covid schools chaos and the exam result fiasco in 2020.

Mr Williamson was appointed Education Secretary after Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister in July 2019.

The following year he came under repeated pressure to resign over the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students amid cancelled exams. 

He also he faced further ridicule after he said online he had met England footballer Marcus Rashford – who led a campaign for free school meals – when he had instead talked to England rugby player Maro Itoje.

After closing schools in March 2020 because of Covid, and then cancelling that year’s GCSEs and A-Levels, he faced calls to resign – and was likened to accident-prone British TV character Frank Spencer – 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.

Before his tenure at the Department for Education, Mr Williamson became known for a tendency to put his foot in his mouth as defence secretary.

He was sacked from that job in May 2019 following an inquiry into the leak of information from a National Security Council meeting about Chinese telecoms firm Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G mobile network. 

Mr Williamson denied being the source of the leak.

He was also given the nickname ‘Private Pike’ by critics who compare him to the hapless young soldier in Dad’s Army.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: ‘Gavin Williamson left children to go hungry, created two years of complete chaos over exams and failed to get laptops out to kids struggling to learn during lockdowns. His record is astonishing and disgraceful.

‘Boris Johnson is proving again it’s one rule for him and his mates and another for the rest of us.

‘This shows utter contempt for the challenges children and education staff have faced during the pandemic.’ 

Former shadow schools minister Wes Streeting said Gavin Williamson’s knighthood was a ‘reward for failure’.

Mr Streeting, who is now Labour’s shadow health secretary, said on Twitter that the decision was ‘shameless’.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: ‘The only award Gavin Williamson should be given is the one for worst education secretary in history. 

‘He failed to get laptops to children who needed them, sleepwalked into the exam crisis and caused chaos for parents and teachers over getting children back to school. 

‘People across the country will be outraged at this reward for his abysmal failures.

‘It is an insult to every child, parent and teacher who struggled through Covid against the odds. It shows this government only cares about those at the top.’  

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘School and college leaders will be surprised to learn that Gavin Williamson has been given a knighthood.

‘The challenges of the pandemic and the implications for education would have been challenging for any education secretary, and this needs to be recognised.

‘But the experience of schools and colleges of Mr Williamson during his tenure as education secretary was one of endless muddle, inevitable U-turns, and even threats of legal action to override local decisions.

‘This was not all Mr Williamson’s fault. The hand of Downing Street was detectable amidst the chaos too.

‘However, many parents will share our surprise that his record in this role warrants the conferring of a knighthood.’

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