Just hundreds of thousands of people not getting their qualifications at all today then. There’s less of a fuss about it all, of course, because they’re only some obscure thing called BTECs, and no one important in politics really knows what they are.
I’ll fill you in. A BTEC is what you tend to get if you, say, want to work in a care home, and is not to be confused with a PPE degree from Oxford, which is what you’ll need if you want to accidentally flood the entire care home sector with undiagnosed coronavirus. (PPE is also what you’ll need to study if you want to provide the people who work in care homes with a very small badge.)
We are so far into the realm of auto-parody now that can anyone be bothered even to raise an eyebrow to note that Pearson decided, with a few hours notice, that it wasn’t actually going to publish the BTEC results it’s had since March to sort out.
This is the organisation that sets and moderates exams. It’s had several months to prepare, and now, on the morning of the task in question, it’s realised it’s not done anything at all and so it’s just not going to turn up. An actual exam board having an actual exam anxiety dream, except in real life, while wide awake, with hundreds of thousands of people watching.
There’s precious little point in trying to point out who’s to blame for it all, because that person is Gavin Williamson and we already know he’s not going to quit and he’s not going to be sacked. For Boris Johnson to sack him, he’d actually have to break from his holiday for a few minutes and that is far too much trouble. He didn’t break his nine-day Chequers retreat in February to concern himself with some trifling little thing called Covid-19, so he’s hardly going to bother to do so for the sake of sacking Williamson.
And why should he? He doesn’t want to. Johnson owes much to Williamson. Though to the outsider, it is both horrifying and depressing in equal measure to think that Williamson is a significant person in public life, it is sadly true.
Chaos as BTEC results recalculated at last minute
Though he has no discernible skills at all, he does have some that are not discernible. He was a very effective chief whip, and was equally effective when he was given the unofficial role of whip for Johnson’s leadership bid.
Tory MPs are, by their own cheerful admission, the most dishonest electorate on the planet. Last summer, when they were voting, yet again, for a new leader, it was Williamson who tried to make MPs who’d said they would vote for Johnson actually prove it by WhatsApping him a picture of the ballot paper inside the voting booth. He also ran the depressing Oxford Union-style operation of loaning out Johnson votes to other candidates in the early rounds, to eliminate threats.
This shame-free loyalty is the currency that matters in politics. It is far far more important than trifling matters like a nine-day rolling exam results turboshambles. The little boys and girls who have or haven’t got their BTECs, who maybe will or maybe won’t get to start their careers, are not what matters.