The rest of us have always known that Gavin Williamson is a joke – now even he accepts it

That the education secretary can’t bring himself to say his own A-level results out loud tells its own story

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 10 August 2021 16:53
Gavin williamson says he's 'forgotten' his A-level results

Give up guys. It’s over. Go home. You know who you are – your Jeremy Clarksons, your Jake Humphreys, the really big fish of the tedious A-level results day humblebrag. Well there’s a new king in town now, his name’s Gavin Williamson and you’re not getting anywhere near him.

Bragging on social media about how badly you did in your A-levels and how great your life turned out anyway has, for at least half a decade, become the nation’s most tedious annual pastime. But not anymore. Williamson’s killed it.

Jeremy Clarkson reigned supreme in this turbo-woeful little world for quite some years, arriving each mid-August with metronomic regularity to announce how his C and two Us from Repton School turned out to be absolutely no barrier to his hyper-privileged upbringing getting him exactly what he wanted from life regardless.

He, in fairness, was top dogged last year, by Lord Jim Bethell, whose underwhelming A-levels, he claimed, “taught him how to hustle” and who has now hustled himself all the way to the House of Lords where he sits as a hereditary peer.

Enter Gavin. We turn, immediately, to the secretary of state for education’s appearance on LBC Radio on Tuesday morning. Gavin Williamson, it turns out, can’t even remember what he got in his A-levels but look at him now! He’s secretary of state for education. Wallop. Have some of that. It’s such a glorious piece of humblebraggery it almost isn’t even worth interrogating any further, but we will anyway, not least as it will very quickly turn out to be complete drivel.

Asked by Nick Ferrari what he got in his A-levels, Williamson grinned his trademark “I’m-about-to-lie-to-you” grin. You know the one. His boss, the prime minister, does it too. The smirk that they think somehow makes it OK to lie, because it reveals the lie to be so palpably ridiculous it’s not really a lie since nobody could ever be expected to believe it.

“Well I remember walking up to those college doors, Nick, and going into my college sixth form, opening up the envelope, seeing the grades on there and just feeling absolute delight,” Williamson explained. “The sudden realisation that all my dreams, the next steps, doing social science at Bradford University, had opened up.”

You don’t really need to have watched too many police dramas to spot a potential further line of interrogation here. How can it be, for example, that Williamson can remember everything about that day. The college doors, the envelope, opening the envelope, seeing the grades – but not what the actual grades were?

“It’s so long ago,” Williamson said, his bum crack quite possibly smirking as well by now. “Twenty seven years ago! I’ve forgotten. I bet you can’t even remember what happened last weekend Nick!” Bit of manly bonhomie at the end there, that should kill off a few more seconds.

Never mind that this toe-curling episode leaps right to the front of the Gavin Williamson toe-curling episode highlights reel, which was already approaching infinite length, what with him having told Russia to shut up and go away, and then getting ghosted in a safari park on live TV by Richard Madeley, to the clear delight of a passing semi-rampant elephant.

But there is a vaguely serious point concealed within. Though the now annual blanket bombing of 18 year olds who aren’t even listening with life advice from people who cocked up their A-levels has been self-satirising for many years. Once upon a time, some of it was well intended. Cocking up at school and making the best of it anyway can be an inspirational story.

Erstwhile Today programme presenter John Humphrys for example was, and indeed still is, proud of not having been to university at all. But he can afford to be proud, of course, because for several decades his talent spoke for itself. Labour’s Alan Johnson left school at 15 and worked first in Tesco and then as a postman, but also made it all the way to becoming secretary of state for education.

In any normal world, any normal person getting what we must assume to be moderate A-level results, attending the somewhat modest Bradford University, yet ending up with several of the biggest jobs in government is the sort of thing they would be fiercely proud to have achieved.

That Gavin Williamson can’t bring himself to say his own A-level results out loud tells its own story. Up until around 8am this morning, it was assumed that the only person in the whole country who didn’t think Gavin Williamson being secretary of state for education was a complete pisstake was Gavin Williamson himself. With his little smirk and his E-grade obfuscation, he only makes clear that he knows it’s a complete joke as well.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in