HENRY DEEDES: Gavin Williamson sends them all to sleep (again)

Gavin Williamson sends them all to sleep (again): HENRY DEEDES watches a snoozy show from the Education Secretary at the despatch box

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Barely five minutes had passed and the dreary minister with the even drearier voice had the Commons stunned.

No, not that sort of stunned. Not as in ‘Harry Kane stuns Wembley’ or ‘Love Island poppet stuns viewers in a plunging floral maxi dress’. The other stun. As in ‘set phasers to …’

Clive Efford (Lab, Eltham) was practically comatose, his beard occasionally emitting the odd reassuring twitch. Rachael Maskell (Lab, York C) appeared so dead behind the eyes she might have been lobotomised.

The Education Secretary had arrived to update the House on his plans for schools after the July 19 unlocking

Slouched deep down his seat, mouth open, tummy poking out of his shirt, was Sir Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough). Somehow he summoned the energy to scrawl something onto his order paper. A few last words to his loved ones, perhaps.

Such a scene could only mean one thing: Gavin Williamson was at the despatch box.

The Education Secretary had arrived to update the House on his plans for schools after the July 19 unlocking. Mr Williamson spoke for exactly ten minutes. It felt like ten hours.

Jargon gushed from his mouth the way water spews out of the Limpopo.

He announced that he was doing away with school ‘bubbles’ – or as Gav pronounces it ‘boobles’ – which have left hundreds of thousands of children needlessly isolating at home during term-time. Whenever he said the word, those lips puckered like an office party drunk moving in for the kill.

As is his tendency, he proceeded to thank more people than Academy Award winners on Oscar night. Parents. Pupils. There was the obligatory pandering to all the ‘inspirational teachers and wider educational staff.’

No one listened.

One saving grace for Gav, however, is that his opposite number Kate Green fares no better in her role.

He announced that he was doing away with school ‘bubbles’ – or as Gav pronounces it ‘boobles’ – which have left hundreds of thousands of children needlessly isolating at home during term-time

Ms Green, who responded to yesterday’s statement remotely, is one of those wonkish creatures concerned only with minor details. She’d be the sort of teacher who delights in all her different coloured pens – the red one in particular.

Green found little to mark down in the statement. Instead, she resorted to attacking the Government’s failure to keep the Indian variant at bay. Cue dismissive groans from the Government benches. The classroom by now had switched off.

A huddle of Tory MPs chatted away disruptively in one corner. As Green droned on, I expected a paper aeroplane to go splat against the television screens at any moment.

More from Henry Deedes for the Daily Mail…

Suddenly, the aforementioned Sir Edward was on his feet. By Jove, the old boy has recovered!

His body swayed in the aftermath of its earlier sedation. Leigh requested a sense of proportion from those obsessing over classroom safety. The chances of a child getting seriously ill from Covid were ‘vanishingly small’ he said.

Tom Hunt (Con, Ipswich) demanded more co-operation from the teaching unions. Williamson smirked. ‘My honourable friend is a new Member, and he arrives here with a lot of optimism,’ he chuckled. At last, a half-decent line.

Forty minutes into Gav’s life-draining performance, the chamber began to empty. Leigh headed off for a late lunch. Efford by now had perked up and decided to join him.

The education select committee chairman Rob Halfon heaved himself toward the door so forcefully on his crutches that he could have out-leapt a kangaroo.

Determined to hang in there was Tim Farron (Lib Dem, Westmorland). You’d struggle to find a more polite MP than odd fish Farron, yet even he spent the session with his head in his hands staring forlornly at his rubber shoes.

Surprisingly, he demanded children receive better access to outdoor education. Hiking, climbing, canoeing etc. There was me thinking the Lib Dems were the sort who’d want the school egg and spoon race banned.

What a contrast drab Gav was to sparky new Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who earlier gave the House another update on the Government’s plans.

After the Speaker had brought the session to an end, even Saj’s rivals wanted a piece of him.

Munira Wilson (Lib Dem, Twickenham) hurried over seeking advice. Labour’s health spokesman Jonatha n Ashworth congratulated his new opponent for providing shorter answers than his predecessor.

If there were shares in The Saj right now, investors would be piling in. But they should beware the volatility of any politician’s stock.

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