UK Education Secretary Gillian Keegan lashed out on camera, accusing others of being “sat on their arse” after 100 schools were ordered to close buildings due to crumbling concrete.
(Bloomberg) — UK Education Secretary Gillian Keegan lashed out on camera, accusing others of being “sat on their arse” after 100 schools were ordered to close buildings due to crumbling concrete.
“Does anyone ever say, you know what you’ve done a f***ing good job because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing?” she told an ITV News crew after an interview on Monday. “No signs of that, no?”
The unguarded comment was caught at the end of a television interview where she was still wearing a microphone.
Later on Monday, speaking to broadcasters, she apologized for the “choice language” and said she had not been referring to “anyone in particular.”
“The interview had been pressing me quite hard on why I hadn’t solved this issue which had been going on since 1994 and it is frustrating,” she said.
Keegan’s hot mic moment followed private accusations from Tory lawmakers and officials that she has mishandled the crisis that has engulfed England’s education system in recent days. The government has also pointed the finger at the previous Labour administration — which lost power in 2010 — for failing to tackle the issue with lightweight concrete in schools.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman Max Blain said in a regular briefing after Keegan’s remark that the premier retained “full confidence” in his education secretary.
Read more: Sunak Denies Responsibility for Concrete Crisis in Schools
Sunak earlier was forced to deny personal responsibility for the debacle following claims that he approved cuts to a schools rebuilding program when he was chancellor.
Keegan has faced growing internal criticism over her role. One official said there was bewilderment in government as to how the education department ended up announcing school closures last week — just days before the start of term.
Bloomberg reported earlier Monday that Keegan was on holiday as the crisis unfolded. She was in Spain Aug. 25-31 to celebrate her father’s birthday, after instructing ministerial colleagues and officials to investigate the concrete issue, her office said.
During that time, she worked via video conferencing and email each day, her office said, adding that she was not able to return earlier due to air traffic control systems in Britain going down.
In a further headache to Sunak on Monday, an independent panel dismissed an appeal by the Member of Parliament Chris Pincher against an eight-week suspension from the House of Commons over allegations he groped two people. The Conservative Party had suspended Pincher over the incident last year, which also helped trigger Boris’s ouster as prime minister.
While the suspension is little surprise, it also raises the prospect Pincher’s constituents will start a petition to trigger a special election in a Tory stronghold. Sunak already faces another by-election after Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries finally quit late last month, weeks after saying she would do so, piling vitriol on the premier in her resignation letter. A third vote is due to be held in a seat in Scotland won in 2019 by the Scottish National Party.
(Updates with Pincher verdict in final two paragraphs.)
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