I haven’t heard language that salty since my Patterdale terrier nipped the rector’s left buttock! QUENTIN LETTS casts his gaze over Gillian Keegan’s hot mic explosion
Greetings, grapple fans, and welcome back to the wrestling ring, the custard pie factory, the banana-skinned Laurel and Hardy show of Westminster politics.
What a start to the new term. A prize blooper by Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary, had the asterisk industry running short of supplies and primary schoolchildren covering their teachers’ innocent ears. It can’t have done much for Mrs Keegan’s ambitions to lead the Tory party, either.
After a sticky ITV news interview about the crumbling-concrete kerfuffle, Mrs Keegan came over all Anglo-Saxon (that language may need restoring to the GCSE curriculum). Displeased by the ITV reporter’s attitude, Mrs Keegan threw a tantrum. ‘*%!£$@!,’ she exploded. ‘And while we’re at it, #&%+*$!!! and up Pompeii to you, too, sunshine.’ Words along those lines, anyway. Shuddering with disdain, she was. Tsk, tsk, tsk. The ITV team looked at their toecaps but soon exacted revenge.
This being the modern world, the clip was on Twitter faster than most of us could say our eight-times table. More sensitive members of the parliamentary press lobby fainted and had to be revived with a glass of Chateau Smelling Salts. Personally, I had not heard language like it since the day our Patterdale terrier nipped the rector in the left buttock.
Rishi Sunak hosts a cross government briefing on RAAC in the cabinet room in 10 Downing Street
After a sticky ITV news interview about the crumbling-concrete kerfuffle, Mrs Keegan came over all Anglo-Saxon, writes Quentin Letts
The bogus joys of broadcasting. During her actual interview the minister was the epitome of gushy positivity, honeyed, smiley. The moment the cameras were off (or so she thought, poor sap) she smoulderingly smoothed her cascading locks and gave the ITV boys both barrels, like Miss Piggy shaking her curls before turning her trotters on Kermit. No one appreciates my talent! This movie’s not big enough for a diva of my talents!
Roughly an hour later, she was back front of camera – after a change of outfit from black to red – to grovel. She apologised for her ‘choice language’. It had been an ‘off-the-cuss remark’. Sorry, off-the-cuff. Who was she referring to when she complained about ‘everyone else who has sat on their arse and done nothing’ about the unsafe concrete. ‘No one in particular,’ fluted Mrs Keegan, quite the innocent.
When the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner recently allegedly clobbered a bass soloist, he blamed the hot weather. Mrs Keegan did not repeat that gambit, though it was boiling as Westminster returned after the summer recess.
The Commons day began with ‘swearing in’. Good grief, had we not had enough of that already? Happily, this was only the arrival of three new MPs from recent by-elections. Among them: Keir Mather (Lab, Selby), aged 25 but looks half that. He was wearing his first communion suit and uttered the oath in a voice that may not yet quite have broken. Afterwards he fell into the arms of Peter Kyle (Lab, Hove) who was waiting for him behind the Speaker’s chair with his teddy bear.
Before vespers Mrs Keegan arrived to make a statement about the concrete problem in schools. Wigs off, tin helmets on. The clerks narrowed their gaze, bracing for a stream of something mustardish.
READ MORE: No10 sends Education Secretary Gillian Keegan out to apologise for hot mic rant where she accused everyone of ‘sitting on their a***’ over concrete chaos only to blame the SCHOOLS for slow response – as aides reveal she was in Spain when crisis erupted
As happens when a minister is in the mire, the chamber filled with curious rubberneckers. Bridget Phillipson, shadow minister, honked that the collapsing concrete thing was ‘an utter shambles’ and that ‘Labour puts children first’. The teaching unions won’t like the sound of that. A better line came from Dame Diana Johnson (Lab, Hull North): ‘If the Department for Education is short of cash, maybe it should bring in a swear box.’ Mrs Keegan boasted that as a Scouser she was capable of far worse obscenities. Oh well, that’s one definition of true blue.
From Downing Street, meanwhile, came a prolonged yowling, a veritable muezzin-call of curses: it must have been Rishi Sunak, aghast that his bid to damp down the schools crisis had been so spectacularly wrecked by his imperious education secretary. The daft thing is, she actually did pretty well in her Commons answers. She sounded on top of the detail. But one silly outburst had wrecked her day.
In other news, the traditional Miss Piz Buin award for MP who returns with the deepest summer suntan goes to Julian Smith (Con, Skipton & Ripon), brown as an acorn. Sir Desmond Swayne (Con, New Forest West) has grown his hair longer than Michael Fabricant’s winter wig. And Sir Keir Starmer reshuffled his shadow ministers. Brian Nonentity and A.N. Other have been given the elbow and replaced by N.V. Goode and Eve N. Verse.
Two dress changes in day for the ‘proud scouser’ minister with a £10,000 rolex
She is a self-made businesswoman with a £10,000 Rolex watch and homes in France, Spain and London. Yet Gillian Keegan’s roots are as a ‘proud Scouser’ in working-class Merseyside.
Her Conservative politics were formed in Knowsley, against a background where eight out of ten voters supported Labour at the last general election.
She resists the stereotype that people from Liverpool ought to vote for Left-leaning parties, and last year blasted the ‘inverted snobbery’ which saw her criticised for wearing her Rolex when commenting on nurses’ pay rises, saying: ‘It’s almost like assuming you’re working class, you start working class and you can’t become anything else.’
And the 55-year-old’s willingness to change was in evidence again yesterday when she switched her outfit twice during a round of TV interviews defending herself in her latest controversy.
Changes: Gillian Keegan arrives at studios in red, before switching to black for interviews
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