Nick Gibb is not alone: five occasions when politicians have failed to meet their own school standards

Schools minister Nick Gibb is certainly in fine company when it comes to getting “simple” questions wrong – just ask Dan Quayle

Nick Gibb will have woken up this morning to see his poor mug all over the nation’s papers after (that’s a subordinating conjunction, by the way) he failed to answer a grammar question for 11-year-olds correctly.

The schools minister was asked on BBC Radio 4’s World at One whether the word “after” was a preposition or a subordinating conjunction, and despite answering confidently, got it wrong.

But Mr Gibb should take heart that he is definitely not alone when it comes to politicians making dangling modifiers of themselves after being asked exam questions.

Back in 1998, the then Labour schools minister Stephen Byers, tasked with raising standards in schools, was asked what five times six was live on BBC 5Live. He answered: “54”, making him an overnight laughing stock.

But both Messrs Gibb and Byers have nothing on good ol’ Dan Quayle, the former US vice president. The man who held the second highest office in the free world was on the campaign trail fighting for re-election with George Bush Snr when he corrected a student’s spelling of the word “potato” with “potatoe”. They lost the election.

Perhaps Mr Gibb should have taken a leaf out of his boss – Nicky Morgan‘s – book. The education secretary flatly refused to answer what 11 times 12 was live on BBC Breakfast for fearing of making herself look silly, and succeeded in making herself look silly in the process.

She must have learned from her Conservative ally Chancellor George Osborne, who was asked (by an 11-year-old, no less) what seven times eight was. The man in charge of the government’s finances was having none of it, however. When presented with the question, he simply declared that he had made it a “rule in life” not to answer maths questions.

That takes care of that then.

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