Minister says she doesn't know if Gavin Williamson is racist or just incompetent 1 month ago

Minister says she doesn't know if Gavin Williamson is racist or just incompetent

“Honestly, I don’t know," says social care minister

Social care minister Helen Whately has said she "doesn't know" if Gavin Williamson is racist or incompetent as the education minister continues to get skewered over a case of mistaken identity.

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Whatley was asked about Williamson on LBC on Thursday after it was revealed he had mistaken rugby player Maro Itoje for footballer Marcus Rashford.

Williamson had insisted to the Evening Standard that he had met Rashford over zoom, saying he seemed "incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming". However, it was later revealed Williamson had never met Rashford and had instead spoken with rugby player Maro Itoje.

Asked on LBC if Williamson was either racist or incompetent, Whately said: “Honestly, I don’t know.”

Host Nick Ferrari did not let up, asking again: "So it could be racism?”

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The MP tripped over her words, replying: “I can’t believe for a moment that he is.”

Ferrari concluded: “So he’s incompetent then?" But Whately pushed back, saying: “It’s not necessarily one or the other. You’re trying to put me in a trap to say it’s one thing or the other.”

Given Rashford's tireless work to tackle child poverty and provide free school meals, people were shocked on Wednesday that the education secretary hadn't in fact already met Rashford, let alone would confuse him with another athlete.

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Williamson has since said of the mistake: "Towards the end of a wide-ranging interview in which I talked about both the laptops and school meals campaigns, I conflated the issues and made a genuine mistake.”

Labour's shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, called the incident "depressing".

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“It is depressing that in 2021 one black man – who has reached the pinnacle of his sport and has given so much back to society – is confused so easily with another by the education secretary.”

He continued: "Gavin Williamson must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable education secretary in the UK’s history.”

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