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Ex-education secretary Williamson to get knighthood

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Ex-education secretary Williamson to get knighthood


Former defence secretary and education secretary Gavin Williamson is to receive a knighthood.

The Conservative MP for South Staffordshire was sacked from the cabinet in last September’s reshuffle.

Mr Williamson faced opposition calls to quit over his handling of disruption to England’s schools and exams during the pandemic.

The 45-year-old, whose first career was in manufacturing, previously served as the government’s chief whip.

He was given a CBE in 2016 for political and public service, and it is understood that his knighthood is being awarded for the same reasons.

Mr Williamson was first elected to Parliament in 2010 and became chief whip, in charge of Conservative Party discipline, under Prime Minister Theresa May, in 2016.

While in that role he notably kept a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk.

In 2017, Mrs May made Mr Williamson defence secretary, a role he served in until 2019 when she sacked him, saying she had “lost confidence in his ability to serve”.

This followed an inquiry into a leak from a National Security Council meeting on whether the Chinese firm Huawei should be involved in setting up the UK’s 5G network. Mrs May said she had “compelling evidence” that Mr Williamson was responsible for the leak, but he denied this.

Exam difficulties

He returned to the cabinet as education secretary in summer 2019, after Boris Johnson became prime minister.

But his time in the job was marked by severe criticism from opposition parties over his handling of school closures, free school meal provision and GCSE and A-level exams during the Covid pandemic.

Mr Williamson was replaced as education secretary by Nadhim Zahawi in last autumn’s reshuffle.

Reacting to the news of his knighthood, Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “Gavin Williamson let 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.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said head teachers and parents would be “surprised” to learn the news.

He said the pandemic would have been “challenging for any education secretary” but added that Mr Williamson’s tenure had been one of “endless muddle” and “inevitable U-turns”.

Mr Williamson has not commented so far on his honour.

original source: Ex-education secretary Williamson to get knighthood

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