The education minister made the slip in an interview with the Evening Standard, saying he had responded to footballer Mr Rashford’s campaign for an urgent review of the free school meals system.
‘We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off,’ he told the interviewer.
‘I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training.’
But later, his team clarifed that Mr Williamson met rugby player Maro Itoje, who campaigned to bridge the ‘digital divide’ by providing pupils with equipment to access online learning from home in the pandemic.
Marcus Rashford responded to the apparent mix-up today, tweeting alongside a cry laugh emoji: ‘Accent could have been a giveaway’.
A spokesman for the England and Manchester United footballer confirmed he had never had direct communication with Mr Williamson.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy wrote on Twitter: ‘This is appalling.
‘@GavinWilliamson what was it about @maroitoje that made you mistake him for @MarcusRashford?
‘You must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable Education Secretary in the UK’s history.’
Mr Williamson had already been under fire today for unrelated reasons, with his position reportedly at risk in a Cabinet reshuffle.
The Prime Minister defended him in the Commons today after Labour shadow schools minister Peter Kyle asked: ‘With a net approval rating among Tory supporters of minus 53, can the Prime Minister get to his feet, put his hand on his heart, promise the country, this House, and his own supporters, that the Education Secretary is the right person for the job, and is up to the job?’
Mr Johnson responded: ‘I think the whole House will recognise that the Education Secretary has done a heroic job of dealing with a very difficult circumstance in which we have had to close schools during the pandemic.
‘And never forget, I think the job of teachers, the job of parents up and down the land would have been made much easier if Labour, and the Labour leadership in particular, had had the guts, if he’d had the guts to say that schools are safe.’
Metro.co.uk has contacted the Department for Education for comment.
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