SARAH VINE: Arise, Sir Gavin… for services to complete ineptitude as the worst Education Secretary


This being a family newspaper, I’m afraid I can’t relay what my 18-year-old daughter said when I told her Gavin Williamson had been knighted. Suffice to say it was not language becoming of a young lady.

At a time when we have all been transfixed with horror at the atrocities being visited on Ukraine by Putin, focusing on anything else almost feels wrong. 

Maybe that explains why the Government chose to announce Williamson’s knighthood this week. Perhaps they were hoping that the suffering of the Ukrainian people would act as a distraction from this asinine decision. I sincerely hope not. Because that would make a bad thing ten times worse.

In summation, by popular consent the worst Education Secretary in recent history, a man who presided over a series of cock-ups that derailed the education of thousands upon thousands of students, has been rewarded with one of the highest honours in the land.

SARAH VINE: Call me naive, but I thought the whole point of a knighthood was to recognise outstanding achievement or service. Not some sort of consolation prize for serial incompetence

SARAH VINE: Call me naive, but I thought the whole point of a knighthood was to recognise outstanding achievement or service. Not some sort of consolation prize for serial incompetence

Call me naive, but I thought the whole point of a knighthood was to recognise outstanding achievement or service. Not some sort of consolation prize for serial incompetence.

This is a man whose only real distinction in politics was being fired by two consecutive Prime Ministers, first as Defence Secretary under Theresa May in May 2019, and then by Boris Johnson last year.

Everything else in between has been a series of bizarre misjudgements, ranging from the time he declared that Putin should ‘go away and shut up’ to mistaking rugby player Maro Itoje (who campaigned for children to get laptops during lockdown) with footballer Marcus Rashford (who campaigned for free school meals).

True, some of his blunders were unintentionally entertaining – such as the time he was heckled by his own mobile phone’s Siri function while at the despatch box, not to mention his inability to recall his own A-level results. 

But overall the impression given during Williamson’s four years as a Cabinet Minister is one of laughable ineptitude. Or at least it would be were it not for the deadly serious repercussions.

The idea that the Government would even contemplate awarding him an honour, let alone actually go through with it, is just beyond embarrassing. The second his name appeared on whatever list it is these things appear on, his answer should just have been a flat ‘no’, with an extra serving of ‘no’ on top.

Gavin Williamson is a man whose only real distinction in politics was being fired by two consecutive Prime Ministers, first as Defence Secretary under Theresa May in May 2019, and then by Boris Johnson last year

Gavin Williamson is a man whose only real distinction in politics was being fired by two consecutive Prime Ministers, first as Defence Secretary under Theresa May in May 2019, and then by Boris Johnson last year

Because as well as being a kick in the teeth for all those poor kids who had their exam results wrongly downgraded – and their futures messed around – as a result of ‘Sir’ Gavin’s incompetence (not to mention their poor parents, who in some cases are still dealing with the fallout), it’s also an act of self-sabotage Boris Johnson could have done without.

At a time when he’s been showing real leadership and statecraft in the face of Putin’s aggression, it’s unbelievably frustrating for Conservatives such as myself to see him hamstrung by idiotic errors of judgment such as this one. But that’s Johnson all over: good at the big stuff, absolutely rubbish when it comes to the details.

God knows what the personal relationship between Johnson and Williamson is.

There are many things in this world worth dying in a ditch for. Gavin Williamson is not one of them

There are many things in this world worth dying in a ditch for. Gavin Williamson is not one of them

Perhaps there is some truth in suggestions that Williamson may have information from his time as Chief Whip that Johnson really does not want revealed.

But if that is the case, it only makes the lack of judgment worse. Partly because one should never give in to blackmail. 

But mainly because it would mean the Prime Minister is prepared to debase the honours system simply to appease someone who was nothing short of a liability to him and the Conservative Party.

Johnson has demonstrated remarkable clear-sightedness and strength so far in his response to Putin. 

This terrible situation has afforded him the chance to show the electorate what he’s really made of and what he truly believes in.

There are many things in this world worth dying in a ditch for. Gavin Williamson is not one of them.

Kirstie brings the Lefties to book

When it comes to World Book Day, I’m with Kirstie Allsopp. I can’t stand all those virtue-signalling Lefties who think it should be banned because dressing kids up puts pressure on poor families.

Firstly, how incredibly patronising. And second, what unutterable nonsense. Sure, if you decide to buy your child an off-the-shelf costume, maybe. But the whole point of World Book Day is to use your imagination with whatever comes to hand.

The best one me and the kids ever came up with was a cardboard box painted to look like an actual book, with holes cut in it for arms and legs. 

Total cost? Probably about 20p. The look on their faces when it won First Prize? Priceless.

I wonder what effect the disappearance of Russian money will have on the traditional stomping grounds of Putin’s oligarchs. 

The catwalks of Paris and Milan, the South of France, ski resorts such as Courchevel and Meribel, parts of Central London. Not all Russians are as rich as Croesus. 

But the past two decades have seen a lot of ordinary people frozen out. It will be a relief to see some balance restored.

Volodymyr is a marvel… 

I’ve finally worked out who Volodymyr Zelensky reminds me of: Hawkeye, one of the Avengers in the Marvel film series, as played by Jeremy Renner. 

It’s just a shame Capt. America happens to be Joe Biden.  

I've finally worked out who Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured) reminds me of: Hawkeye, one of the Avengers in the Marvel film series, as played by Jeremy Renner

I've finally worked out who Volodymyr Zelensky reminds me of: Hawkeye, one of the Avengers in the Marvel film series, as played by Jeremy Renner (pictured)

I’ve finally worked out who Volodymyr Zelensky (left) reminds me of: Hawkeye, one of the Avengers in the Marvel film series, as played by Jeremy Renner (right)

Young people (well, my children and their friends) keep saying ‘That’s so Y2k’ about things. Mainly old threadbare items of clothing I own. 

Apparently Y2k refers to the vintage 2000s, which is confusing for me because, being an ancient person, the 2000s feel like yesterday. 

But Y2k is as nothing compared to the excitement that erupts when I produce something from the Nineties. ‘Ohmygodthatissocool,’ they say, as I think to myself, no we weren’t. 

Now I know how annoying it must have been for my parents’ generation when we Eighties teenagers started listening to Marvin Gaye and acting like we were the first people to discover Motown and Levi’s 501s.

However much the people of Britain would like to help the people of Ukraine by offering them refuge, the reality is that because of the huge number of illegal economic migrants reaching our shores every day, resources are limited. 

Now is the time to crack down – and make space for real refugees who so desperately need our help.

It’s Meghan’s way or the highway 

Was there ever a more telling line than the one in my colleague Robert Hardman’s forensic new biography of the Queen (Queen of Our Times: The Life Of Elizabeth II) about Meghan Markle who, when Prince Charles offered to walk her down the aisle, replied: ‘Can we meet halfway?’ 

Was there ever a more telling line than the one in my colleague Robert Hardman's forensic new biography of the Queen (Queen of Our Times: The Life Of Elizabeth II) about Meghan Markle who, when Prince Charles offered to walk her down the aisle, replied: 'Can we meet halfway?'

Was there ever a more telling line than the one in my colleague Robert Hardman’s forensic new biography of the Queen (Queen of Our Times: The Life Of Elizabeth II) about Meghan Markle who, when Prince Charles offered to walk her down the aisle, replied: ‘Can we meet halfway?’ 

Clearly she had no intention of letting anyone, not even the future King, steal her airtime. Shame that sentiment didn’t extend to the rest of her dealings with the in-laws. Not so much ‘halfway’ as ‘her way’ – or the highway. 

I said it earlier in the week, I’ll say it again: if I had to turn off my heating, shower every other day and read by candlelight to put an end to Putin’s lunacy, I would happily do it. 

Now the International Energy Agency has said that if we just turned our thermostats down by one degree, Russian gas imports to the EU (and Britain) could be reduced by more than a third. What are you waiting for? 

At the hairdresser’s last week, one of the juniors was lamenting the fact that, thanks to the Tube strikes, it had taken him three hours to get to work and cost him an extra £18. But what upset him the most was the fact that Tube drivers were demanding more pay – despite already getting £55,000 a year. 

‘That’s more than twice my wages,’ he said. ‘And I’ve got to spend practically half what I earn in a day to get to work because of them.’ 

Quite. Let’s hope no one tells him that Mick Lynch, head of the RMT union that called the strike, earns £124,000 a year. 

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