Williamson’s Rashford and Itoje mix-up mocked by Burnham
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Andy Burnham attacked Gavin Williamson after it emerged the minister had mixed up Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje during an interview on Zoom. The Education Secretary told the Evening Standard he had spoken with Mr Rashford online and said the footballer was “engaged” and “charming” but had to shoot off. But the newspaper added Mr Williamson never met Mr Rashford after they contacted his team with Andy Burnham ridiculing the “insane” minister for the embarrassing gaffe.
The Evening Standard spoke with Mr Williamson who claimed he had spoken with Mr Rashford over Zoom.
But after finishing and publishing the interview, the newspaper article added: “Later Williamson’s team tell me he actually met the rugby player Maro Itoje, who campaigned to bridge the digital divide, not Rashford.
“Rashford’s spokesperson confirms that he has never had any direct communication with Williamson, although the minister did have a call with Itjoe about equal access to education during the pandemic.”
Mr Williamson called it a “genuine mistake” and has been widely lambasted on Twitter and social media.
Mr Burnham appeared on Sky News where he was asked for his opinion on the Mr Williamson debacle.
He told the programme: “Well, I don’t even know where to start with that one, you know.
“I guess in the past it’s been the case that Conservative politicians who don’t follow football very much may not have known that prominent Manchester United player.
“But this isn’t any Manchester United player, this is somebody that led the highest-profile campaign probably any footballer has ever run in the field in the political domain.
Gavin Williamson confuses Marcus Rashford with Maro Itoje
“Calling for free school meals for young people so directly at the door of Mr Williamson’s department.
“So it’s insane he doesn’t know who he is, what’s he been doing over the last year or so?”
Mr Williamson published a statement which read: “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.
“We corrected this with the journalist before the publication of the story. I have huge respect for both Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje who run effective and inspiring campaigns.”
Mr Itoje joined in on the dogpile and posted on Twitter: “Due to recent speculation, I thought it was necessary to confirm that I am not Marcus Rashford.
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“And whilst we are here my name is not Mario either!! Just a simple Maro Itoje will do…”
A spokesperson for Mr Rashford revealed the two have never met with Mr Williamson only responding to one of two letters sent to him by the footballer.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed Mr Williamson for his “heroic” work during the pandemic as the minister had to deal with “very difficult circumstances”.
A rumoured cabinet reshuffle may happen later this week with Mr Williamson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tipped to be replaced.
Mr Williamson has been widely criticised by teachers for not releasing funds to help pupils catch up with their disrupted education.
Exams were also replaced with teacher assessments which have seen the highest level of A/A* marks awarded with many fearing grade inflation.
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