Williamson, Gavin


Sir Gavin Williamson is the state-school taught, tarantula loving, ‘baby faced assassin’ who ran the Department of Education between 2019 and 2021. He was sacked by Boris Johnson in September 2021 and replaced by Nadhim Zahawi.

A backer of Rishi Sunak, Sir Gavin returned briefly to the cabinet as minister of state at the cabinet office in October 2022. However following a string of media reports about his past conduct, Sir Gavin resigned just two weeks into the role. He refuted the claims but resigned saying they were becoming a ‘distraction’ for the govenrment.

Before becoming Secretary of State for Education in 2019, Gavin Williamson was already a prominent politician and a well-known figure inside the parliamentary Conservative party.

A former Government Chief Whip, Williamson managed Theresa May‘s successful campaign to become Conservative leader in 2016, and then undertook the same role for Boris Johnson in 2019. Williamson was knighted in 2022.

Gavin Willamson

Gavin Williamson had a bumpy ride as Education Secretary.

Secretary of State for Education

Gavin Williamson initially appeared to suit his role as Education Secretary; he went to a comprehensive school, is married to a former teacher and has previously been a school governor and County Councillor. Appointed to this post by Boris Johnson in 2019, Williamson made a return to the Cabinet having previously served as Secretary of State for Defence.

As Education Secretary during the 2020-2021 Coronavirus epidemic, Williamson faced the challenge of keeping schools open and managing the exam process for students who had not been in school.

Having announced in March 2020 that schools would be closed across England until further notice, he also announced exams for that academic year would not go ahead. Instead, Williamson detailed how an Ofqual algorithm would modulate teacher assessed grades. Williamson repeatedly defended the algorithm arguing it was the only way to stop grade inflation.

However, after GCSE and A-Level results were announced, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson came under significant pressure to announce that unmodified teacher assessed grades would be accepted. After some delay, Williamson committed to this U-turn announcing that he was ‘incredibly sorry’ for the distress caused to pupils.

In late 2021, Gavin Williamson was criticised for apparently confusing the Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, with the England Rugby player, Maro Itoje.

Relationship with Boris Johnson

In 2016, Williamson, a ‘Remainer’ on the issue of Brexit, was quick to back Theresa May for the Conservative leadership, passing over Boris Johnson. In fact, according to journalist George Eaton, Williamson ‘privately vowed to do all he could to stop Boris Johnson entering No 10′.

Williamson ran May’s successful campaign, with one former senior civil servant under May noting: ‘[Williamson] just knows everybody, what makes them all tick, all the gossip’.

In 2016, there were rumours that Williamson had requested photos of the ballots from some Theresa May backing MPs to ensure they did actually vote for her. Williamson denies this. During the 2019 Tory leadership contest, MPs were told to hand in their phones pre voting, as a precaution to formally prevent anyone photographing a ballot paper.

At the start of the 2019 Conservative Leadership campaign, Williamson offered his services to Boris Johnson. He is widely credited with delivering significant number of MPs to the Johnson campaign. Johnson won the 2019 contest and Williamson returned to the Cabinet, until being sacked by Johnson in the autumn of 2021.

Political Career

Williamson was first elected at the 2010 election as the Conservative MP for the safe seat of South Staffordshire. In 2019, he was returned with a majority of 28,250 votes.

In David Cameron‘s government, Williamson served as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Hugo Swire, Minister of State for Northern Ireland; PPS to Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; and, eventually, as PPS to Prime Minister Cameron himself from 2013-2016.

Under May, Williamson was promoted to Chief Whip in which position he earned the sobriquet ‘baby faced assassin’. In this role, Williamson had a residence at Number 12 Downing Street, and kept a tarantula called Cronus on his office desk.  His deputy at that time, Ann Miltion, said that Sir Gavin could be “quite threatening in his manner and his attitude”, telling Channel 4 News that she thought Sir Gavin saw himself as Frances Urquhart, a fictional chief whip, in the TV series House of Cards.

In 2017, following Michael Fallon’s resignation, Williamson was appointed Defence Secretary. In this role, Williamson clashed with then then Chancellor Philip Hammond. After Williamson announced in a 2019 speech that Britain was preparing to send a new aircraft carrier to the Pacific, the Chinese government cancelled trade talks with Hammond.

On May 1st 2019, May fired Williamson over his alleged leaking of information about Huawei’s potential involvement in the British 5G network. Williamson ‘swears on his children’s lives’ that he was not behind the leak.

Political Views

Sir Gavin was a ‘Remain’ supporter during the 2016 Brexit referendum, but was quick to move to accept Brexit under May and Johnson.

Williamson has previously voted against gay marriage, and has also expressed support for scrapping the Human Rights Act 1998, for stronger immigration rules, and for lower taxes.


Gavin Alexander Williamson was born on the 25th of June 1976. Williamson grew up in Scarborough-attending secondary school at Raincliffe Comprehensive and then Scarborough Sixth Form College, before enrolling at the University of Bradford.

What did Gavin Williamson do before politics?

After graduating, Williamson initially took to manufacturing – successfully turning around a pottery firm in Staffordshire. Mr Williamson is said to still maintain good relations with the ceramics industry, one which has typically been strong in the county of Staffordshire, which he himself represents in Parliament .

In 2006, Mr Williamson told the Stoke Sentinel newspaper that the best advice he had ever received was from his father who had told him to ‘get a real job’ rather than taking one with the Conservative Party.

Williamson later became the Managing Director of an architectural design firm. Williamson resigned from this position upon his entry to Parliament in 2010.

Is Gavin Williamson Married?

Sir Gavin Williamson is married to former teacher, Joanne Eland. The couple have two children.

Further Details

Twitter – @GavinWilliamson

Facebook Address – @gavinforsouthstaffs

Personal Website – https://www.gavinwilliamson.org

Who’s who? Raab v. Williamson