tv Political Thinking with Nick... BBC News November 6, 2022 10:30am-11:01am GMT
it isa it is a choice. a choice between two vastly different visions of america. this tuesday you must vote republican in a giant red wave. now on bbc news, political thinking with nick robinson. hello and welcome to political thinking, a conversation with rather than an interrogation of someone who shapes our political thinking about what shapes theirs. in a new cabinet dominated by public schoolboys and oxbridge graduates, the new education secretary stands out. gillian keegan�*s old school, a comprehensive in knowsley called st augustine's,
was nicknamed st disgusting before it was shut down a couple of years after she left. like most kids at her school, gillian left at the age of 16 and went to be an apprentice at a car factory. now, that was a springboard, as we'll hear, for a very successful business career. she went on to become the commercial director at mastercard, chief marketing officer at a big travel firm called travelport. her boss, now, rishi sunak, says a good education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet when it comes to making people's lives better. gillian keegan, welcome to political thinking. thank you for having me. now, just a month ago, i interviewed the new education secretary, kit malthouse, here on political thinking. and my first question was something along the lines of what's it like being the fourth education secretary in five months? you're now the fifth education secretary in six months. it's not good enough, is it? well, you can't get too
much education, can you? but, i mean, clearly, as a party, we've been through, you know, a bit of a difficult time over the last couple of months. and there's been lots of changes, you know, the great resignation. and then there was movements around the cabinet. and then we've obviously had the change of leadership after after boris, obviously liz and now rishi. and that's brought about some changes. is there a danger, though, that people in the system, when they hear you, will simply think, just let's wait, let's drag our feet a bit because there'll be another one along in a few months? no, because they've actually got used to me a lot. and one of the things i did when i was the skills and apprenticeship minister is introduce the first t levels, the new t levels, and it was in the pandemic. there was a lot of discussion, let's delay, let's delay a year. i did not buy that. i phoned up every college principal. they were all for going ahead. they said, we've waited too long to reform technical education in this country. let's get on with it. so they know i'm somebody thatjust, you know, i have not come
into this job to delay stuff, to write bits of paper that don't go anywhere. i'm really much more about getting stuff done. now, you're a new education secretary, but your friends say in a sense, your life was a preparation for this job. is that how it feels? yes. even in politics, which i never thought of being a politician at all, i never thought of being an mp. but even when i first started, ifelt like my life had kind of been leading to this point without me knowing. and certainly, education secretary, if you could choose one thing, it would be, education secretary not only going to a failing comprehensive school in knowsley for the full five years and getting really in my dna. people say about levelling up, about recognising that talent is everywhere, but opportunity isn't. i lived that and i thoroughly and fully believe it. and i know because i see the faces of all the people who were there, i still see them. all my friends are mostly still in knowsley. we'll talk about the good bits in a second, but first of all, the bad. why was it nicknamed st disgusting? 0h, they werejust jealous, i'm sure. no, i don't know. was it really poor? there were some ten comprehensive
schools in knowsley. they were all failing. they were all inadequate. they weren't rated then, but they would have all been inadequate. 92% of the kids left without the four or five 0 levels as they were when i was there to get on to the next stage of education, 92%. so that left 8% who did. now, i was one of the 8% which... you got ten o—levels. i did, which was a bit of a miracle. it wasn't really down to me so much as more down to a teacher. and that's why i love education. everyone who goes into teaching, they want to change somebody�*s life. hopefully a lot of kids lives. but mr ashcroft, who was my teacher, he changed many lives at st augustine's, and he basically stayed behind after school till 5:30 every day to get me to enable me to study technical drawing, engineering. and that's how i managed to do ten o—levels. and, yeah, he basically guided me there and guided me onto my apprenticeship. that's when you went on to an apprenticeship in a car
factory, which we'll talk about. but you were unusual. a lot of your friends are still in touch? many didn't get ten, maybe didn't get any. so my two best friends and i walking home from school, having picked up our results, one of them got zero, the other one got one cc grade one and i got ten. the conversation was not about my ten. it was all about why one of them had got one and the other one had got zero. so that was normal. most people did not get any, or one or two, if at best. now, we've talked to jackie, your friend, that you always knew the way to get out of where you grew up was through a good education. was that your thinking? this is the way to escape? it was my mother's thinking, but not escape. my dad worked in mcalpine. he was an office manager for road building and he had probably the samejob from when he was about 28. he kind of started morejunior. he got thatjob about 28, and he did thatjob for all of his life. he was getting up early.
he was driving to wherever the motorway was being built. sometimes we moved with him, but when we were older we didn't, and he always felt that he was held back because he didn't have what he called the bit of paper. and he was always keen that we were not held back by what he thought was sort of artificial in terms of your abilities because you can overcome qualifications through experience, etc. that was what held in him back and he never got to where he could have got to. so he was the one saying, do your homework, get your exams? yeah. and so he was one, you know, basically thinking it was important and mum was also the one who wanted...she had this view that, you know, we were her children, we could be whatever as long as we worked hard and, and smiled. that was her basic advice in life. for people who don't know knowsley, it's a pretty poor part
of merseyside. you were part of a very big liverpool catholic family. yes. all living near to each other, i imagine. yep, yep. there were seven in our street. well, seven of your family. seven of our family in our street. yeah, well, doors always open, always in and out of. yeah, yeah. i mean, it was good for things like tools, you know, you didn't have to buy a full set. you could all, you know, share it between the households. that was the saturday morning routine of my dad, my uncles, etc. my cousins. yeah. i mean, we're a super close family. my mum and granddad, my paternal grandparents lived on a council estate, you know, less than a mile away. and my nanna and granddad lived on a council estate at the end of our road and we were all within a mile of each other. yeah. politics discussed at home? the only time i remember was my granddad was a miner. so when the miners strike was happening, that was a big discussion. now, miners families. usually, not always, but usually very anti tory would have been anti ted heath in the seventies. very opposed to margaret thatcher. and you were in liverpool. yes. in which as it were, it was through the mother's milk often was the idea that you would be
anti tory and frankly i don't think it's too strong a word. my granddad. my granddad, i think it's fair to say he was probably around about hate levels. he also hated arthur scargill, which was interesting. he thoughtjoe gormley was his man. he was the guy that he thought was reasonable that would have had the right relationship to navigate. what he could see was some aspects that needed to be a union leader of the previous generation. so that was and he thought, you know, he wasn't a fan of arthur scargill at all. so little bit of politics in your house. yes, but not a massive amount. what about, though, the fact that at that stage we're now in the early eighties, liverpool is run by a militant with a capital m. in other words, derek hatton of the militant tendency who was alienated from the labour party and the enemy of margaret thatcher. what did you make of him at the time? if you want to know what not to do in life, how not to run things in life, how not to behave in life, you know, he's the guy. i have nothing really good to say about him. and you came across him, though, once, didn't you? idid.
i did. they were opening a wine bar. it was in huyton, and there aren't that many wine bars there. i think it's fair to say there was none. there was just pubs and it was a room in a hotel. and my friend jackie and i were there, we were going in and there was a guy there. it was quite astonishing because there was a jag outside with a driver in and there was a guy at the door sort of saying hello to everybody with champagne. moet, you never saw champagne in huyton in knowsley at all in those days. so, yeah, we we met him. he gave me a glass of champagne. oh, really? he did. he gave me and my friend a glass of champagne. it was a moment because you say there wasn't a lot of politics at home. doesn't sound like you were very political when you were young. was that the beginning of a journey away from the politics, which you must have grown up in labour politics towards the conservative party? or did that have to wait till you were working in that carfactory? well, i'd already started
working in the car factory. i started working in the car factory at 16. as you know, the legal age for drinking is 18. so i'd already started working in the car factory. in fact, i probably wouldn't have afforded to be able to go if i hadn't. and is that where the politics began to affect your apprenticeship? yes. as i understand it, you're buying car parts. well, it was actually a rotation, what would be called now a rotational degree level apprenticeship. so for three years, you went round every single bit of the car factory, whether it was toolmaking, whether it's production, whether it's expediting, whether it was design accounts, all of the different parts, distribution, advertising. so you went round all of it. it was the most brilliant apprenticeship because. it was the most brilliant apprenticeship because by the time you'd gone through those three years, you're pretty much the only few people who understood how the whole business knitted together. it gave me my real love and interest in business. but car factories in those days were very heavily unionised and had a lot of strikes. the union guy used to come and see me on a weekly basis and try and strongarm me intojoining. and i didn't like the style of that. i didn't like him kind
of trying to threaten me. you know, i'd be the first one out if there was any problems. so i always, itjust seemed wrong. so you never. neverjoined, which was unusual. but then the strikes started happening and the substance of the strikes were artificial in some cases, you know, there were over sort of restrictive working practices that you just were ancient. you didn't need to keep... you needed to have discussions about how to change them. and ijust saw lots and lots of strikes as though, and i used to say to them, you're acting as though you're the only people in the world who can make a car part. you are not. and if you carry on like this, you will find that all of these women who work in the shop floor and it was largely women who really rely on this job in kirby, fitted with the school hours reasonably well. they will be out of a job and there will be nothing that will replace it. that's not easy. it felt right, though. i felt very strongly. when we talk to people about why you've got on in the tory party. you were a remainer. yes. and you're serving a brexiteer. you got given jobs by politicians who you didn't vote for. yes.
your friend justine greening said to us, it's because you make people laugh, it's because you're gregarious. do you think that's a skill you learnt in that car factory? definitely. agreeing how to disagree without falling out 100%. and you can do that all the time. you know, in my life, i've always tried to find the one thing we agree on, not the ten things we disagree on. i mean, you mentioned you spoke to jacqui. you know, we met when we were very young. we were ten. she's labour. she actually voted leave. i said to her, this was our one time to agree. and she, you know, cocked it up. but anyway she doesn't agree. but we've never agreed on so much stuff. and we've been best friends for 44 years. and, you know, that is because you don't have to agree with people. you have to just understand where they're coming from. people will have different opinions and that's perfectly valid. so you leave that car factory. yes. you go into business. well, i was in business.
in the car factory, sure. true. but you go into senior business positions. did you, at that stage, think about politics or were you just loving the success you were making in business? i never thought about politics at all, apart from just voting. so, at the age of 19, when i first voted, i voted conservative and i haven't really changed since, but i didn't think about it as a career at all. i loved what i did. it was really interesting. business was really interesting. trying to create jobs is really interesting. trying to create businesses and grow them internationally is really interesting and that's what i've done. i've always worked for multinationals and i've always worked in different parts of the world and i've even lived in some different parts of the world as well. it was a fascinating journey. i loved it. people who have worked abroad, who lived abroad, often look at britain in a slightly different way. they suddenly look in at their old country differently. yeah. did you? yes. well, first of all, it makes you love the bbc world service because that is your consistent
link to home. secondly, you see how others view your country. and i think it's fair to say that most people view our country much more, hold our country in much higher esteem than perhaps we do ourselves. and i found that in the foreign office as well when i was briefly there over the summer. you think that's still true? i do. i do. i was only in the foreign office recently. so, there we are, very successful making, i imagine, quite a lot of money as well. yes. what on earth gets into your mind to think, i know what i'll do later in life is i'm going to go into politics? well, the first thing that happened on thatjourney was i came back from madrid in 2009 to live back in the uk, and by that point i wasn't bored of business, i'd loved it, but i thought, you know, we're only here for a short time in this world and i could get a different experience, something completely different. so it opened my mind. but i still didn't come to politics until i met baroness annejenkin in a theatre randomly, and she was with somebody i knew. now she's a conservative peer. yeah. who i think it's fair
to say, set herself up. that was then supported to get more women through the conservative party into senior positions. she became your mentor. she set it up with theresa may to get more women involved. and she basically goes around the place looking for conservative women who may want to sort of spend their next career as a conservative mp. you ran first of all, you didn't run for a seat in merseyside where you're from, but you kept your married name to run. were the family ashamed or embarrassed that you were running as a conservative? well, up until that point i had used my maiden name in business, which was gibson. and when i stood, it was actually my dad. he looked a little bit worried and he said, does this job come with insurance? i said, what are you talking about?
i was putting a poster up. he said, i'm worried someone�*s going to put something through the window. and i said to him and the first time i thought about actually the impact of my change of career on my parents, who i adore. and i thought actually, maybe because i've been married for years to michael, but i thought, what's the point of swapping gibson for keegan? i mean, they're both sort of bog standard names, right? so i didn't really bother. and i said, would it help if i sort of moved to keegan and went to gillian keegan and a look of relief on his face, so that's what i did. so i stood as gillian keegan. even though you were living in your old parents house? i was in my old bedroom, yeah, back there, which was lovely. and what about their attitude then? worried? yes. were they appalled ? i mean, were they kind of what are you doing because your grandparents were from labour stock, weren't they? oh, they're all from labour stock. and most of my cousins are from labour stock. in fact, i found out over the weekend, i think i have an union rep as one of my cousins, which is a national teacher's union, education union. it could be useful or not, i'm not sure. but yeah. they all come from labour stock. they weren't embarrassed.
they're super proud of me, actually. now they're really proud. and when you show a leaflet to your grandma. oh, well i showed my leaflet to my grandma. well, she was in a care home with dementia. she always loved looking at pictures of me and i had lots of pictures on the leaflet. so she's looking. she said, who's that fella? you know, isaid, oh, that's a college kid i'm talking to, you know, about carmel. and, you know, so she was asking about the pictures and then i put the leaflet to one side, we were chatting. she wrote in the background and she looked and then suddenly her face went like thunder. she went, that's not my party. i said that you can't remember what you had for breakfast, but you remember you're labour, which was hysterical. but did she know it was you though? she did that you were running? i said, now we've never agreed on it. we've always had a different viewpoint. she went, oh, love. oh, all right, then. so, she was lovely, my nan. i was very close to her. this was all good preparation for you going into parliament where there's basically a war going on. david cameron's gone by the time you're in there because he's lost that referendum. you were a remainer and you pulled
on your business knowledge to argue the case for remain. and what's more, you're a friend of the speaker, john bercow, a family friend. mm—hm. how uncomfortable was that? i think it was uncomfortable for everybody. i mean, i like to get on with people and i don't like to see, you know, that kind of conflict. i was saved in one way. there's a whatsapp group, a tory mps whatsapp group, and i don't know whether nobody noticed i was there, but i never got put on it. so actually when everyone was arguing on this whatsapp group, which was leaking readily to you probably and many other journalists, i wasn't actually on it, so i didn't see the extent of that. but you could see it in the tea room. obviously, you could see it in the chamber, you could see it in the country. in one way, parliamentary democracy and representation was was shown in one way to represent the country. it was happening in families. it was happening in pubs, it was happening in schools, it was happening in workplaces. everybody was talking about it and having a different view. so it was just something we had to go through as a country. we didn't have to go through. david cameron chose to have a referendum. he could have chosen not to.
as someone who'd been a business leader, who worked around the world, worked for global companies, clearly thought leaving the eu was a mistake, did it make you hesitate to go into politics? just think, i should say to this lot, look, you'vejust made a terrible mistake? no, not at all. i mean, you have to have your views represented. at that point, i was thinking, well, you know, we've made a difficult decision. there are upsides to the decision. this is not a binary decision. i mean, i came down on remain because i looked at it through the eyes of an international business person. but there are some upsides as well. there are upsides to autonomy economically that we've yet seen. in other words, there are theoretical upsides that we could regulate or are different. we are yet to see economic benefits, aren't we? you make your own decisions. you can tax in a different way. but we've yet to see any
economic benefit, have we? the benefits will come from being agile, the agility of being able to decide ourselves as opposed to having to get a consensus with 27 others. a little earlier you talked of your friend jackie and you said she cocked it up when you said you both believe she cocked up the opportunity for us to agree. it was a no, no. the first politician's answer you've given. well, i'll tell you even more. why do you think she was wrong? no, it's unacceptable now to just say to people. i still think i was right about remaining. i made a mistake. i don't. and i'll tell you why. and it wasn'tjackie, my mum and dad. through this process, i discovered i had not even voted to go in in the first place. i never knew that about them. that's how little we discussed politics. but they had made a decision in the �*75 referendum that they did not think it was a good idea just conceptually to be in with this group. and that's when it was a trading relationship. so i respect them and i respect other people's viewpoints. you can argue this either way, but the day after the referendum and i was upset by the result, i'll be honest, but the day
after i thought, we have to do this. we have to do it in a sensible way, and we have to do it in a way that obviously keeps our relationships intact as much as possible. because i also understood how disappointing it would be for almost every european country. now, i first noticed you when you did something extraordinary. you did something that breaks all the rules. you came on the today programme and when asked a question you said, i don't know. you were doing something that people don't normally do. not really. it was such a lesson. so it was when the rule changed and all the rules, you know, we're in the pandemic. everybody had their own bits of, you know, what we should do, you know? and we had north, east, north sunderland was different from newcastle. we had all these different rules and they said, how many people can sit outside a picnic bench in somewhere or whatever? and i actually had half a clue because i had looked at great detail. i'm quite a detailed person at these
rules, but i wasn't sure whether it was liverpool or somewhere in the north east that you could sit on a picnic bench and i didn't want to mislead people and i said, look, i'm really sorry, i don't know, but there is a website if you want to go and they'll tell you, i thought that was honestly the right thing to do. well, it turned out i became the news story. i was on gogglebox, i was on the news quiz. which conservative politician doesn't know? as though i was the stupidest person. obviously the knowsley comprehensive education did that come out. ——did that come out? it didn't. it did with a few people. "you're always a little bit too thick to know the answer." yes, yes. and i thought, well, you're too thick to see what i've done in the intervening period. you know, it's all there on wikipedia. this is the perfect setup for me to ask you some questions about what you'll do as education secretary because. .. i hope i know! i know this is not, you know, a news interrogation. as i always say, if you don't know what you don't want to say yet, you can say money you'll know is going to be one of the big ones, isn't it?
oncejeremy hunt, the new chancellor, announces spending on schools per pupil, real terms is lower than it was when the tories came into power in 2010. truth is, it's not going to get higher, is it? well, this is the real difficulty across all of government. and, you know, i have a lot of sympathy with jeremy and the prime minister, who are now sort of sat there trying to figure out how we navigate this, these economic challenges without making things worse. we have to tackle inflation and bring it under control if we don't. ——if we don't any spending decision that's made any whether it's up or down any of it will all get eaten by inflation. so the number one thing you have to do is you need to get inflation under control. otherwise, all the other numbers are kind of irrelevant. so that's the number one thing. they have to focus on that, and that's what we'll do. after saying that, everybody knows and we did get a big increase actually in the last in this spending review, we got another
4 billion for schools and we've got a big increase in skills as well. that will disappear because of inflation. well, but that showed at the time that there was a real recognition that we you know, we really did need to invest in education. and the school standards have gone up massively since 2010. so you say about the money going down, but the standards have gone up massively. so it's not all about money. money is important, but it is about the teaching. and our teachers are fantastic and they just want to get better and better. just a few quick ones which you may not be able to say. you may not have decided because you're just in the job. more grammar schools, new ones, notjust extending the old ones, yes or no? well, the thing about grammar schools is 90% of kids just never get to go to one. there was no grammar school anywhere near knowsley. someone will find one now, but i didn't know of it if it existed. what i'm focused on is the 90 odd percent who will go to comprehensive education like i did. i'm not against them. it is not a priority. i think that people who went to the grammar school will see them as a life changing moment. and they have changed lives like my
apprenticeship changed lives. so, you know, people love them. but we've got to focus on the 90 odd percent who don't get to go to them. so given all that you've said, you knew in the job, money's short. the amount of time you've got before the next election is short, what is the key thing you'll want to look back on and say, even if i only ended up with a year and a half in thisjob, and you hope for longer, but it's that, i've done this? it's the reform of our technical education and making sure everybody has access to high quality apprenticeships. we have 1.3 million high quality jobs in this country, vacancies, and we have businesses that want to grow. i have one crucial final policy question. go on. if you were in charge, what would you force matt hancock to eat in the jungle? oh, goodness. his words. i don't watch the jungle programme. i can't think of anything worse than going on that programme. but i guess he's chosen a different career. and he might get to eat a kangaroo penis. i guess you could do that without going. i don't know! if that's your goal in life
i'm sure you could order one online. you obviously go to different restaurants and cafes than i do. no, no. i think we should leave it there. gillian keegan, thank you very much forjoining me on political thinking. thank you very much for having me. it's that personality. it's that ability to deal with conflict, to still be friends with people you fundamentally disagree with. that is clearly such an important part of gillian keegan's rise to the top. the difficulty for her, for all of us, in truth, though, is that for many business leaders, that is a route they simply do not want to take. there are very many talented people who find the politics of today completely alienating. that's it from this edition of political thinking. thanks for watching. hello there.
for most of you, today is a day of sunshine and showers. the showers was lasting about an hour, then the sunshine will come back out. there was a mixed picture earlier this morning, nice sunrise, but actually there was rain coming down as vicky a braved the elements to take us that weather watcher picture. what's going on on the big picture? yesterday's rain is mostly cleared out of the way, but the weather front that brought it is still loitering across east anglia and southeast england. lots of showers, meanwhile, packing into the west of the uk, these showers moving through, giving an hour's worth of rain, then the sunshine comes back out. but the rain is likely to be heavy, whereas across southeast england and east anglia the rain will accumulate and here 20 to 50 millimetres, bringing the risk of some localised surface water flooding. now the rain is going to be much more extensive across east anglia, probably stretching into lincolnshire and the east midlands through most of this afternoon. so particularly wet spell of weather for these areas, but otherwise lots of showers around. the wind is picking up, gusts running into the forties
of miles an hour today across wales and the south west. but it's mild, temperatures double figures just about everywhere, 12 to 1a degrees your high. overnight tonight, those south—westerly winds continue to blow, bringing further pulses of rain up from the south west. it's going to be a mild night. by the end of the night, 1a degrees in plymouth. a bit cooler than that, though, in rural northeast scotland where actually you might start off with a little bit of sunshine here tomorrow morning. otherwise, tomorrow is another unsettled looking day. south—westerly winds with us once again, bringing further pulses of rain at times, often a lot of cloud too. and the winds will continue to strengthen with gales developing towards the southwest as we go through the afternoon, temperatures 15 or 16 degrees, the highest temperatures across southern wales, southern areas of england. but then through monday evening it gets even windier. and i think across wales and south west england, around the coast and hills, we could be looking at gusts of wind reaching 60 miles an hour or so. that's strong enough to bring down one or two tree branches, so there could be some localised impacts. the rest of the week, it stays pretty windy with low pressure continuing to fire showers
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