Since when did it become acceptable for elected politicians to blatantly lie to the people they were elected to serve? Of course, they’ve always had a somewhat flexible approach to the truth-Tony Blair’s New Labour were masters of spin and Margaret Thatcher’s ‘economic miracle’ of the 1980s was anything but. But Boris Johnson is something else. A prolific liar, a bullshitter and a fraud. In March, Labour leader Keir Starmer, during PMQs, brought up the fact that Johnson had broken his campaign pledge by reducing the number of troops. Johnson, a model of affronted indignation, insisted this was not true, even after Starmer showed him a newspaper article demonstrating that it was. He lied about his knowledge of Marcus Rashford’s admirable campaign for free school meals. He lied about economic growth levels under his party’s government. He lied about the track and trace app. He lied about the NHS receiving an extra £350 million per week post-Brexit. He told all sorts of lies about Brexit in general. I could continue, but there’s really no need.
And apart from all the lies, there’s the gross incompetence. This Cabinet was not appointed for their expertise in their respective areas, but for their blind loyalty to the Prime Minister. Gavin Williamson, Priti Patel, Matt Hancock and Johnson himself have not got a fucking clue what they’re doing. They have presided over the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in Europe, they have fucked up our children’s future, their ‘deal’ with the European Union is a disaster and they are threatening our democratic right to protest and giving undercover police free reign to rape and torture. It’s truly horrifying. So let’s evaluate these disgraceful ministers one by one:
Williamson once achieved the coveted title of ‘Fireplace Salesman Of The Year’ in his previous career, and it’s fair to say this has been the pinnacle of his work-related achievements so far. He enjoyed a meteoric rise to power; first serving as Councilor in North Yorkshire (where I live), before winning election to Parliament in 2010. He was appointed as Principal Private Secretary to Hugo Swire, Minister of Northern Ireland in 2011, taking the same position to then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013. His first significant contribution to the law-making process was calling for a law to ‘clamp down on car boot sales that disrupt traffic flow.’ Truly, the man’s a visionary. Cameron’s successor Teresa May appointed him Chief Whip upon assuming the mantle of Prime Minister, and then as Defense Secretary in 2017. Chief Whips often make enemies, it comes with the territory, but Williamson is deeply unpopular within his own party. Rumor has it he plotted to arrange the departure of his predecessor, Sir Michael Fallon. Colleagues have described him as ‘out of his depth and untrustworthy’ and ‘gauche.’ He was unceremoniously sacked from this position in 2019 after accusations he was respo.
To be fair, he did come up with some absolute corkers during his time as Defense Secretary. Following the Novichok poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia, he famously said ‘Frankly, Russia should shut up, it should go away.’ I bet Putin was shaking in his boots after hearing that. In an educative statement on resolving an dearth of Armed Forces equipment, he suggested mounting ‘really expensive guns’ on tractors, buying up decommissioned ferries to convert into beach assault craft and disguising mobile missile defense systems as Coca-Cola vans. We really do live in a post-satire age. If Spanish ships dare venture into Gibraltar he suggested firing paintballs at them. He appeared on Good Moring Britain and took great offense when presenter Richard Madley dared to ask him whether he regretted his ‘Trump-esque’ comments on Russia. He wouldn’t have stood a chance against Jeremy Paxman.
Following a leak from a National Security Council meeting regarding plans to allow Chinese-owned company Huawei to help build the UK’s 5G network, Williamson was summarily sacked by then-PM Theresa May. He denied the allegation of course, and I cannot speculate as to the truth of the accusation, but it wouldn’t hinder his career for long. When Johnson became PM in 2019, he appointed Williamson education secretary. When researching this piece, I was absolutely delighted to learn that none other than Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, had Tweeted ‘What could have been in the Prime Minister’s mind to appoint so mere, so unreliable, so wholly unsuitable a man?’ What indeed, Mr. Soames? The fact he could rely on Williamson to do whatever he was bid and act as a human shield whenever necessary I suspect. An unnamed vice-chancellor put it rather more bluntly when he told the Guardian ‘he’s fucking useless.’
Predictably his performance in this role could be generously described as ‘less than stellar.’ His handling of schools during the pandemic has been abysmal. Following last year’s lockdown, he announced that A-Level students’ grades would be based on a combination of teacher assessment and a mysterious algorithm. This led to 40% of candidates being marked down, massively so in some cases, and unsurprisingly the most disadvantaged were the most greatly affected. The backlash was both huge and immediate, with Williamson responding by stating there would be ‘no u-turns.’ Would you be terribly surprised if I told you that a mere two days later there was a u-turn, with Williamson now conceding that grades would be entirely based on teachers’ assessments? However, universities were thrown into crisis as they were suddenly expected to find an additional 160,000 places for students who had now achieved sufficiently high grades to qualify for their chosen courses.
More recently, Williamson has angered both teachers and parents like myself alike by announcing plans to force schools currently under local authority management to become academies, sponsored by businesses and managed by trusts. This simply more privatization by the backdoor. He’s also made claims, which have been utterly refuted by teachers and children’s advocates, that children’s behavior has worsened as a consequence of lockdown and that he’s going to establish ‘behavior hubs’ to tackle such pressing issues as kids forgetting their pens and talking in corridors by threatening increasing exclusions and detentions. All this at a time when there was a 27% increase in reports to the Department of Education of children being killed or seriously harmed as a consequence of suspected abuse or neglect, four in ten households reliant on food banks having children and 7000 kids being counselled by Childline because they were so worried about coronavirus.
Regardless of your political affiliations, if you are a parent you should be horrified by the fact that this man is in charge of your children’s education. Personally I’ve felt very fortunate that my son is only in reception, and therefore his education has not been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Many, many other parents have been far less lucky. When it comes to our kids, politics doesn’t come into it. We all want them to have the best chance in life possible. Can you honestly say you’re happy to entrust that future to Gavin Williamson?
Next time: Matt Hancock.