POLITICAL dark arts master Gavin Williamson is ‘on his last life’ and will be swiftly sacked if schools reopening is botched, Cabinet colleagues believe.
The embattled Education Secretary has defied calls to quit from opposition parties following the A-Level grading scandal, but No10 does not dispute Mr Williamson offered to fall on his sword.
But ministers and MPs have told HOAR he would not be able to survive another scandal next month if he blunders Mr Johnson’s flagship pledge to reopen schools.
And senior Tories reject claims Mr Johnson is protecting the former Chief Whip – who helped organise the PM’s successful takeover of the party – amid fears he “not only buried all the bodies but still has the shovel”.
One government insider said: “Gavin talks a good game but the People’s Government will not be blackmailed by anyone.”
The warnings came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted that Mr Williamson had not been given the boot because of his crucial role in implementing Mr Johnson’s promise to parents that pupils will be back at their desks at the start of the new term.
Matt Hancock said calls for Mr Williamson to quit were a distraction at a time when he is focused on the major task of reopening schools
And he insisted that all Ministers are “trying to do their best” in unprecedented circumstances “and I know that is true of Gavin Williamson”.
Mr Williamson is under intense pressure after he was forced to abandon the algorithm-based system for awarding A-level and GCSE grades in England.
The U-turn came too late for thousands of A-level students who have already made choices about universities based on the grades they were initially awarded, rather than the new system of using teachers’ assessments.
But Mr Hancock defended his fellow Cabinet minister, saying that he is focused on trying to get all children back to school for the new term after their education was disrupted by coronavirus closures.
“These are unprecedented circumstances and I think everybody is working their hardest and trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances, and I know that is true of Gavin Williamson as it is of all members of the Government.”
He told Sky News: “The big focus is on getting schools back and open at the start of next month, an incredibly important task.
“I don’t think we should be distracted from that task now. We need to absolutely focus on it.”