ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports on Williamson confusing Marcus Rashford with Maro Itoje
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford and England rugby player Maro Itoje have mocked Gavin Williamson on social media after the education secretary confused the pair.
Mr Williamson admitted he made a “genuine mistake” after an interview with the Evening Standard in which the minister said he believed he had met Rashford, who forced the government into a U-turn on free school meals provision during the pandemic, on Zoom.
But his advisers later told the newspaper that he had actually met rugby star Itoje.
Rashford laughed off Mr Williamson’s gaffe as he tweeted: “Accent could have been a giveaway.”
Itoje also joked on Twitter over Mr Williamson’s mix-up.
He said on Twitter: “Due to recent speculation I thought it was necessary to confirm that I am not Marcus Rashford… And whilst we are here my name is not Mario either!! Just a simple Maro Itoje will do… Much love, Marcu… I mean Maro Itoje."
Asked by the Standard whether he had met Rashford, the Cabinet minister told the paper: “We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off.
"I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training.”
After his error became clear, Mr Williamson said: “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 publication of the story.
“I have huge respect for both Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje, who run effective and inspiring campaigns.”
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy wrote on Twitter: “This is appalling.
“Gavin Williamson what was it about Maro Itoje that made you mistake him for Marcus Rashford?
“You must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable education secretary in the UK’s history.”
Itoje and Rashford are “successful young black men”, but there is “little more” they have in common, a spokesperson for the footballer has said.
A spokesperson for Rashford said: “Marcus’ consistent ask to those in power has been collaboration. More often than not this ask is rebuffed.
“Maro and Marcus are two incredibly successful young black men, but there is little more they have in common.”
In June last year, then health secretary Matt Hancock accidentally called Rashford “Daniel” during a Sky News interview.
Rashford’s spokesperson added: “Whether it’s Daniel Rashford or a Maro Itoje reference, the message remains the same. Put our children first.”