HENRY DEEDES bids farewell to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson


Leave the intriguing. Gavin Williamson was the drugless-looking minister whose smirk and Frank Spencer’s voice have always belied a darker nature.

Deemed clearly untrustworthy by his colleagues and opponents, he slips through the halls of the Palace of Westminster like a python sneaks into the jungles of Borneo.

After the exams fiasco – and a supinated capitulation to unions over reopening schools after the lockdown – the 45-year-old’s sacking as education secretary yesterday was, at first glance, inevitable . Still, it has been said that successive PMs have been too afraid to ruffle Gav’s tousled curls.

Leave the intriguing. Gavin Williamson was the gormless-looking minister whose smirk and Frank Spencer’s voice have always belied a darker nature.

After all, here is a man who never tires of reminding his colleagues that he “knows where the bodies were buried.” To quote Lyndon Johnson – who said it about J Edgar Hoover – Boris thought it was better for Williamson to “get out of the tent than come in”. Until now.

For such a calculating number, one would have thought that Gavin enjoyed one of those mysteriously vague careers with impressive credentials. In fact, before becoming a Member of Parliament for Staffordshire in 2010, he was a director of the Elgin & Hall fire pit company.

His subsequent ascent from the slippery pole of Parliament fascinated his colleagues, who marveled at his ability to change allegiance faster than with a spade.

He once vowed that Johnson would never get the top job as long as Gav was there – but the wily Williamson ended up leading his leadership campaign.

Deemed clearly untrustworthy by his colleagues and opponents, he slips through the halls of the Palace of Westminster like a python sneaks into the jungles of Borneo.

Deemed clearly untrustworthy by his colleagues and opponents, he slips through the halls of the Palace of Westminster like a python sneaks into the jungles of Borneo.

Under Theresa May, he ran the office of the whips, where his colleagues compared him to Francis Urquhart in Michael Dobbs’ political satire, House Of Cards. Dobbs even gave him a copy of his book with the inscription: “This is a work of fiction, not instructional. Although he did not know a carrier cruiser, he was promoted to Secretary of Defense. He made his mustaches tremble after the poisonings in Salisbury, telling the Russians to “go away and be quiet”.

Those loose lips reportedly got him sacked during Huawei’s hoo-haa on Britain’s 5G network – although he denied being the source of a leak about the deal.

He did not hide on the sidelines for long, as Boris soon rewarded him with the education record.

Yet rather than any political legacy, it is Gavin’s fondness for pets that seems most likely to live long in memory. Still desperate to present himself as a cabinet member, he kept on his desk a tarantula called Cronos – named after the Greek god who devoured his own children.

Sadly, Gav’s eight-legged friend left for that big spider web in the sky some time ago. After yesterday, it seems that his master’s career is also dead.

Chopped! How Dominic Raab, the child of karate, was a victim of the war: the not very friendly farewell of HENRY DEEDES to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

When Dominic Raab gets angry, his wrinkled forehead tends to throb. His jaw tightens and his eyes glow like filament bulbs.

We saw a lot of them as he walked downing Street yesterday only to be told he was fired from the Foreign Office to the dusty old Justice Department.

Oooh, he looked angry. Black belt in martial arts, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 47-year-old super-fit gave his office a fierce karate chop later in his new department.

As despicable as Mr. Raab’s departure may be, he will arouse little sympathy for his handling of the Afghan crisis.

As the Taliban advanced on Kabul, he inexplicably chose to stay in a luxury hotel in Crete rather than return home to phone Afghan politicians on behalf of stranded British nationals and Afghan interpreters who now fear for their lives.

Tory MP Dominic Raab, in Oxford, where he won a boxing blue

Tory MP Dominic Raab, in Oxford, where he won a boxing blue

Its exit will not be much deplored at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Judging by some of the gamey briefings against him coming from there in recent weeks, there may have been a bottle or two of Blanc de Blancs that erupted along Whitehall last night.

This is all a blow to a fiercely motivated individual who so far has been largely successful.

The son of Czech immigrants, he started at Linklaters, the city’s best law firm known for paying Premier League-style salaries.

A stint at the Foreign Office followed, where he helped prosecute war criminals.

He won Esher’s parliamentary seat in 2010, having cut his teeth in politics as David Davis’ chief of staff.

He was, by all accounts, a demanding master builder, but for all his obvious strengths Raab always lacked a certain human touch. That would partly explain why her leadership campaign after Theresa May’s tearful exit from No.10 never even took off.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves FCDO in London

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves FCDO in London

Despite decent support within the party, his speeches fell like a stale pilchard. “Dull” was the verdict I heard whispered repeatedly by members of the base.

When the Prime Minister was rushed to an intensive care unit with Covid last year, his de facto deputy’s appearance on television of a rabbit in the headlights hardly inspired the confidence of a nervous electorate .

However, colleagues insist that Raab performed admirably as a replacement. His reward was to be given responsibility for the Department for International Development in an enlarged office of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development.

Members of the British and US military assisted in the evacuation of people out of Kabul, Afghanistan

Members of the British and US military assisted in the evacuation of people out of Kabul, Afghanistan

As Raab’s empire grows, so does his stock in Westminster. Everything came to an end in August when he opted for a few more days in the Mediterranean rather than returning to the FO. A finicky performance before the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs then sealed his fate.

Reluctant to quarrel with anyone, Boris embellished Raab with the title of Deputy Prime Minister. But that’s a sop to a man whose ambition instills in him a belief that he deserves so much more.

As the new Deputy Prime Minister left Downing Street yesterday, a reporter exclaimed: “How does it feel to be the next Nick Clegg?”

Once again, Raab’s forehead throbbed. It was a derogatory ending to a degrading day.


Sam D. Gomez