Gillian Keegan jokes she's the 'Devil Wears Prada does politics'

Gillian Keegan jokes she’s the ‘Devil Wears Prada does politics’ at drinks reception as she comes under fire after ordering over 100 schools to close over the concrete crisis

  • Education Secretary described by senior Tory as ‘massive embarrassment’
  • Ms Keegan previously provoked anger after swearing in outburst on air 

Gillian Keegan last night described herself as the ‘Devil Wears Prada does politics’ as she sought to defy her critics amid the concrete crisis. 

Cracking jokes at a drinks reception, the under-fire Education Secretary insisted she had made the ‘right decision’ in shutting school buildings. 

Last week she ordered more than 100 schools and colleges to make either full or partial closures due to fears over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). 

She provoked further fury when she was caught on camera earlier this week asking why no one says ‘you’ve done a f****** good job’ while ‘everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing’. 

Her latest comments provoked fresh anger from MPs. One senior Tory told the Mail last night: ‘Gillian hugely lacks self-awareness. She is becoming a massive embarrassment to both the party and the Prime Minister. 

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan insisted she had made the right decision in closing school buildings affected by the RAAC crisis, as she branded herself ‘Devil Wears Prada does politics’

‘If she can’t pipe down, she should just go – voluntarily or otherwise.’ 

Official figures published yesterday revealed that only half of Department of Education staff were at their desks as the RAAC crisis unfolded over the summer. 

The ministry’s HQ reported 51 per cent occupancy in both of the final two weeks of August, down from 55 and 56 earlier in the month. 

RAAC fears in social housing

Concerns over crumbling concrete spread last night as a government body wrote to social housing providers.

The social housing regulator sought to reassure providers that reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is not widespread in social housing following the school concrete crisis.

But in a letter published yesterday, the Regulator of Social Housing’s chief executive said it might be present in ‘a small number’ of buildings constructed between the 1950s and 1980s. Writing to providers, Fiona MacGregor said: ‘Our current understanding, based on engagement with sector advisers and stakeholders, is that RAAC is not widespread in social housing.

‘However, it may be present in a small number of buildings dating from this period, particularly in flat-roof and panel structures.

‘Ensuring the safety of tenants and residents should be the highest priority for every landlord. We expect landlords to ensure that they have a good understanding of their homes.’

Asked if the Prime Minister thought it was good enough, his spokesman said: ‘First and foremost, the Prime Minister firmly believes in the importance of in-office working. 

It’s vital, not just to help deliver high-quality services for taxpayers but also for staff themselves, particularly staff that are new to the role.’ 

At a ‘networking drinks’ organised by the Women2Win pressure group on Wednesday, Mrs Keegan made light of being caught swearing on a live microphone. She admitted she ‘might need another session’ of media training, before adding: ‘I don’t want to learn how to stop swearing but maybe the mic thing.’ 

Mrs Keegan then described a photograph of her arriving at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting in Downing Street as the ‘Devil Wears Prada does politics’. 

The picture showed her peering over the rim of her sunglasses as she waited to be let inside No10’s black front door. 

‘If you want to see Devil Wears Prada does politics, this is the picture,’ Mrs Keegan told the drinks reception. 

‘I went up to the paparazzi with the picture and I said which one of you took this? And they were all s**t scared of me… and then one of them sort of went ‘me’, and I said ‘right, all you, follow him, because this guy is fantastic’.’ Mrs Keegan said she had survived the pressure of recent days because ‘I know I’ve made the right decision’. 

She told the event: ‘Every ounce of my business experience I’ve used in this last week. And actually, I think if I’m honest, we’ve got more experience of this than pretty much most of the people we’re working with.’ 

Over 100 schools and colleges have had to be fully or partially closed due to fears over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete as the new term started this week

The Cabinet minister also insisted the critical coverage ‘really hasn’t bothered me that much’. 

‘If you know you’ve made the right decision, but they don’t know you’ve made the right decision, and you also know you can manage the implementation, execution of what you need to do, they’re sensationalising it,’ she said. 

‘They’re not journalists, they’re sensationalists, but I’m more confident that, you know, I just really think it’s the right thing, we’ve made the right decision.’ 

Mrs Keegan today made a discreet visit to a school affected by crumble-prone concrete. 

The Education Secretary visited the Anglo European School in Ingatestone, which is one of the schools with protective mitigations in place and temporary buildings installed. 

Some other schools have been forced to close completely just as students prepared to return for the new school year. 

A list published by the Department for Education shows 147 schools have been affected so far by RAAC, with 19 forced to delay the start of term. 

Four have had to switch to remote learning for all students and an additional 20 have had to offer some remote learning. 

Six major unions representing school staff have written to Mrs Keegan demanding she sets out how many schools suspect having RAAC but are yet to have been investigated or surveyed. 

With the National Education Union, Unison and the National Association of Head Teachers among the signatories, they have also demanded to know the deadline for clearing all schools of the dangerous concrete. 

The unions fear the level of information from the DfE so far may not ‘reflect the full extent of the problem’. 

Ms Keegan’s latest Devil Wears Prada (pictured scene from the film) comments have provoked fresh anger within the Tory party, with senior figure describing her as a ‘massive embarrassment’

Ministers have sought to level some blame for a delay in getting the full information together on school leaders. 

Mrs Keegan told school chiefs on Tuesday yet to respond to a survey on the possible presence of RAAC to ‘get off their backsides’ and reply. 

But Downing Street said the picture was improving, with only a ‘small minority’ yet to write back. 

Science Secretary Michelle Donelan defended Mrs Keegan today, rejecting any suggestion an overly cautious approach had opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ for other departments with RAAC-affected buildings. 

‘No, absolutely not. We have taken a proactive and cautious response. But I think we should do that. We’re talking about children and children’s safety going to schools. It would be wrong if we did anything but,’ she told LBC. 

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