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UK coronavirus live: Gavin Williamson criticised over exam results U-turn | UK news

Good morning, and welcome to the UK coronavirus live blog for Tuesday August 18.

If you feel like crawling back underneath the covers, consider this: at least you’re not Gavin Williamson. The education secretary has a tough broadcast round first thing having woken up to a slew of front pages covering his decision to reverse the government’s position on exam grades, and if he had any hope that his u-turn would draw a line under the affair, that has presumably been dispelled.

The Guardian’s full-width story describes the decision as “humiliating” and notes that Williamson has sought to pin the blame for the fiasco on exams watchdog Ofqual, saying that he had only become aware of the scale of the problems with the algorithm “over the Saturday and Sunday”.

The Guardian’s front page for Tuesday 18 August.

The Guardian’s front page for Tuesday 18 August. Photograph: Guardian

The Times focuses on the “scramble for university places”. It also features a sketch on the political class’s “world-beating ineptitude” and reports that Conservative MPs suggested that Williamson should resign.

Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

THE TIMES: Scramble for university places after exam U turn #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/QePG6LYsoH


August 17, 2020

The Daily Mail isn’t particularly comfortable reading for Boris Johnson, either, featuring the two politicians as Laurel and Hardy along with the headline “ANOTHER FINE MESS”.

Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

MAIL: Another fine mess #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/UfNBrkZ5TA


August 17, 2020

The Daily Telegraph also notes Williamson’s attempt to shift the blame to Ofqual and trails a column by former minister William Hague warning that this could be a “poll tax moment for the Conservatives”.

Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

TELEGRAPH: ⁦@GavinWilliamson⁩ shifts blame on to exam watchdog #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/yFw2B1seT5


August 17, 2020

“This is no way to run a country”, declares the Daily Mirror, quoting Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

MIRROR: This is no way to run a country #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/SMPZX27jll


August 17, 2020

The Sun front page features unhappy words like ‘anger’, ‘balls-up’, and ‘dunces’ and concludes in the headline “F=FARCE”.

The Sun front page for Tuesday August 18.

The Sun front page for Tuesday August 18. Photograph: Archie Bland

The FT, Express, i, and web-only Independent also focus on the exams story. And the Daily Star takes a robust view of Williamson’s job prospects, with a picture of him in a giant red nose, a sugestion that he couldn’t “organise a booze up in a brewery”, and the headline: “SACK THE CLOWN”.

Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

STAR: Sack the clown #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/XAGaW2tNUF


August 17, 2020

All in all, then, it’s a difficult morning for the former chief whip. More on the aftermath of the exams u-turn, and much else besides, on your super soaraway liveblog today. I’m here for the early shift and you can reach me on Twitter or by email.



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