Gavin Williamson has been branded the most ignorant and incapable education secretary in the UK’s history after he appeared to confuse Marcus Rashford with the England rugby player Maro Itoje, who is also black.
The cabinet minister, who is widely tipped for demotion at a long-awaited reshuffle some Westminster insiders think could take place on Thursday, made the apparent gaffe in an interview with the Evening Standard.
Williamson was asked by the newspaper if he had met Rashford, the Manchester United and England football player who has led a campaign to extend free school meals.
“We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off,” the education secretary said, 添加: “I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training.”
The Standard reported that Williamson’s team later clarified he had not in fact met Rashford, but was instead talking about Itoje, the Saracens and England rugby player who has campaigned to improve access to laptops and the internet for children unable to attend school during the Covid pandemic.
Williamson’s team have not denied the story and have been contacted for comment by the Guardian.
A spokesperson for Rashford confirmed that the footballer had not met Williamson on a Zoom call. 在声明中, 他说: “Marcus’ consistent ask to those in power has been collaboration. More often than not this ask is rebuffed. Maro and Marcus are two incredibly successful young black men, but there is little more they have in common.”Williamson who in the same interview said he had enough “grit and determination” to weather the storm that has brewed over his political future for a year, faced a deluge of criticism from opposition politicians.
大卫·拉米（David Lammy）, 影子司法部长, called it “appalling” and tweeted asking how Williamson had confused the two sports stars. “You must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable education secretary in the UK’s history,“ 他说.
Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, posted: “According to Gavin Williamson, a black man from Wythenshawe who plays football for England looks the same as a black man from north London who plays rugby for England. The fact that Gavin Williamson remains in his job is a daily reminder of how mediocre white men rise and rise.”
Rashford posted that “accent could have been a giveaway” with an emoji of someone crying with laughter.
The Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker struggled to believe Williamson had made such a gaffe, 发推文: “Surely not.”
Boris Johnson’s press secretary said she was unaware of the education secretary’s comments when asked on Wednesday afternoon if they amounted to racism.