Gillian Keegan: Education Secretary, £10,000 Rolex, and a Controversial On-Air Outburst

by Barbara Wilson

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has recently been thrust into the spotlight, not just for her role in the crumbling schools crisis but also for an unfortunate on-air incident. Keegan, who has faced significant challenges in her position, made headlines when she was caught swearing on camera, expressing frustration about perceived inaction from others in her department.


A Controversial Incident

During a broadcast interview, Keegan, visibly exasperated, was caught in a “hot-mic” moment where she criticized the lack of appreciation for her efforts, stating: “Does anyone ever say, you know what, you’ve done a f****** good job because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing?” The remarks, which were made in the heat of the moment, were directed at the perceived lack of support from her colleagues and predecessors amid a major crisis involving unsafe school buildings.


The comments quickly drew criticism, with some interpreting them as blaming her predecessors and Cabinet colleagues, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. In a follow-up interview, Keegan apologized for her “choice of language” and clarified that her frustration was directed at those who had not responded to crucial surveys about the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) in schools, rather than her colleagues.


A Distinctive Career Path

Gillian Keegan’s journey to her current position is notable for its departure from the traditional paths of many senior British politicians. Born in Leigh, Greater Manchester, she completed her secondary education at a comprehensive school in Knowsley, Merseyside, and pursued an apprenticeship with General Motors at 16. She later earned a degree in business studies from Liverpool John Moores University and built a successful career across the manufacturing, banking, and IT sectors, with international experience in Tokyo and Madrid.


Keegan entered Parliament in 2017, representing the safe Conservative seat of Chichester, West Sussex. Her rise through the ranks of the Conservative Party included a junior role in the education department, a stint in the health sector, and a brief appointment to the Foreign Office under Liz Truss. Her appointment as Education Secretary by Rishi Sunak in 2022 marked her entry into the Cabinet as the fifth person to hold the role in under four months.

Rolex Controversy

In addition to her role in the ongoing educational crises, Keegan has faced scrutiny over her luxury tastes. During a discussion on striking teachers’ pay demands, she was noted for wearing a £10,000 Rolex watch, which drew criticism from some quarters as a symbol of perceived disconnect from the issues she was addressing.

The Raac Crisis

Keegan’s handling of the Raac crisis, which led to over 100 schools being ordered to close due to safety concerns, has been a significant challenge. Her management of the situation has received mixed reviews, with some questioning the timing and effectiveness of the responses.

Looking Ahead

As the Liberal Democrats suggest that Keegan may be on track to lose her seat, the focus on her performance and conduct continues. Her apology for the on-air outburst and her handling of the Raac crisis will likely remain key topics in the ongoing discussions about her tenure as Education Secretary.


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