Gavin Williamson's biggest gaffes as he is axed as education secretary

15 September 2021, 14:55 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 18:02

Gavin Williamson has been sacked as education secretary
Gavin Williamson has been sacked as education secretary. Picture: LBC

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Gaffe prone Gavin Williamson has been ousted from his role as education secretary amid a major overhaul of Boris Johnson's top team.

Mr Williamson tweeted it had been "a privilege to serve" and that he looks "forward to continuing to support the Prime Minister and the Government".

The senior Tory has had his fair share of controversial moments during his time in government.

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We look at his biggest gaffes and strangest moments:

Rashford/Itoje 'mistake'

Mr Williamson said he made a "genuine mistake" after he confused Marcus Rashford for black rugby player Maro Itoje on Zoom.

He was asked in an interview with the Evening Standard, published last week, whether he had ever met the Manchester United star, who has demanded an end of child hunger in the UK.

He replied: "He seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off. I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training."

However, Mr Williamson’s team later told the Standard he actually met Saracens player Itoje, who has campaigned for more schoolchildren to get access to laptops and tablets.

'We're a much better country'

Last year the former education secretary told LBC the reason the UK was first in the world to approve a Covid vaccine, ahead of France, Belgium and the US, was because "we're a much better country".

Nick Ferrari asked Mr Williamson whether Brexit impacted the speedy approval, after the UK became the first to green light the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

Mr Williamson said: "I just think we have the very best people in this country and we've got the best medical regulators. Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. 

"That doesn't surprise me at all as we're have a much better country than every single one of them, aren't we?"

'Go away and shut up'

During his time as defence secretary in 2018, Mr Williamson said Russia should "go away and shut up" in response to questions over the UK's expulsion of diplomats after the Salisbury poison attack.

"What we will do is we will look at how Russia responds to what we have done," he said.

"It is absolutely atrocious and outrageous what Russia did in Salisbury. We have responded to that.

"Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up."

Sharpened carrots

While he was chief whip, Mr Williamson said during a Conservative Party conference speech that he had a "carrot and stick" approach to his job.

He added oddly: "I don't very much believe in the stick, but it's amazing what can be achieved with a sharpened carrot."

Mr Williamson was also known for keeping a tarantula in his office named Cronus, after the leader of the Titans in Greek mythology who castrated his own father, married his sister and ate their children to ensure they wouldn't overthrow him.

He described his pet as "a perfect example of an incredibly clean, ruthless killer".