Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak after his education secretary was caught on camera saying others had “sat on their a***” over the Raac concrete scandal.
In footage released by ITV News, Gillian Keegan appeared to criticise her colleagues, adding she should be praised for doing a “good job”.
Keegan might have thought otherwise, but her microphone was still on — or “hot”.
She said: “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?
“No signs of that, no?”, Keegan added, content the remarks would never see the light of day.
It is one of the occasional times the wider public has been granted a window into what secretaries of states — and politicians in general — really think about their brief and each other.
Politics.co.uk has plundered the archives in search for some other notable examples:
1993 – John Major’s ‘The bastards’ comment
In 1993, then-prime minister John Major’s frustration with his eurosceptic flank boiled over when, in an off-script outburst, he called three of his own cabinet members “bastards.”
The onslaught did not see the select eurosceptic ministers named, but they have since been presumed to be Michael Howard, Peter Lilley and Michael Portillo.
The comment came within minutes of a vote of confidence that kept Major in office.
The Conservative prime minister made the remark following an interview with ITN’s political editor, Michael Brunson. He was also heard pondering “how such a complete wimp like me keeps winning everything”.
2010 – Flash Gordon battles ‘Bigoted woman’
During the 2010 general election, a standard campaign event for Gordon Brown was turned upside down after audio emerged revealing he had called one member of the public a “bigoted women”.
Labour voter Gillian Duffy had briefly spoken to Brown in Rochdale, England, challenging the incumbent PM on immigration among other topics.
In the immediate aftermath, Duffy told reporters that Brown was a “very nice man” and that she intended to vote for Labour.
But Brown was less enthused. “That was a disaster — they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? Ridiculous”, he explained.
“She was just a bigoted woman”, he added.
The PM later visited Duffy to apologise, and repeated his apology during an interview on BBC Radio 2, when the comments were first played back to him.
Brown ultimately lost the election to David Cameron.
2014 – David Cameron reveals Queen ‘purred down the line’ after Scottish indy ref
A week after Scotland’s independence referendum, a news camera microphone recorded the prime minister telling the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that the Queen had “purred” down the phone to him following the success of the “No” campaign.
It is convention that private conversations with the queen should be kept off the record.
Cameron later apologised.
2016 – David Cameron calls foreign leaders ‘fantastically corrupt’
But it this wasn’t to be the last time Cameron was caught out by a lingering microphone.
His comment to the Queen that the leaders of “fantastically corrupt” Afghanistan and Nigeria would be attending his anti-corruption summit in 2016 was picked up.
“We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”, he was overheard saying.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, elected last year after vowing to fight corruption, said he was “shocked”.
The conversation took place at Buckingham Palace at an event to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, attended by political leaders and other public figures.
2016 – David Cameron hums his way out of office
After losing the Brexit referendum, David Cameron was offered one last chance to be caught unawares by a “hot mic”.
He had just stepped down and given a resignation speech in front of 10 Downing Street; “Thank you very much”, Cameron said as he finished his announcement.
He then started the walk back to the door when his still-attached, clip-on microphone caught the newly-resigned prime minister humming.
“Doo doooo doo doo”, he hummed, tunefully, before relieving himself of the microphone, still fastened to his lapel.
2016 – Ken Clarke LABELS Theresa May a ‘bloody difficult woman’
During the 2016 Conservative leadership election, veteran MP Ken Clarke was caught on camera describing Theresa May as a “bloody difficult woman”.
Clarke, who served in five cabinet roles including home secretary and chancellor before standing down as an MP in 2019, made comments about each of the then-leadership candidates in turn after giving a broadcast interview to Sky News.
He was speaking to Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, unaware that the camera was rolling.
In all fairness, Clarke was prompted by Rifkind who said: “I don’t mind who wins as long as Gove comes third. As long as Gove doesn’t come in the final two I don’t mind what happens.”
Clarke replied: “I don’t think the membership will vote for Gove. I remember being in a discussion about something to do with somewhere like Syria or Iraq and he was so wild that I remember exchanging looks with Liam Fox, who is much more rightwing than me.
“We were exchanging views and Liam was raising eyebrows. I think with Michael as prime minister we’d go to war with at least three countries at once.”
He added: “He did us all a favour by getting rid of Boris. The idea of Boris as prime minister is ridiculous.”
Clarke added that neither Andrea Leadsom nor Boris Johnson really wanted to leave the European Union.
“She is not one of the tiny band of lunatics who think we can have a sort of glorious economic future outside the single market … So long as she understands that she’s not to deliver on some of the extremely stupid things she’s been saying.”
He revealed that he might vote for Stephen Crabb tactically in the first round before backing May.
Clarke’s endorsement was not entirely glowing, however. “Theresa is a bloody difficult woman, but you and I worked with Margaret Thatcher”, he chortled.
Clarke continued: “I get on all right with her and she is good. She’s too narrow on her department … She’s been at the Home Office far too long, so I only know in detail what her views are on the Home Office. She doesn’t know much about foreign affairs”.
May later wore the label as a badge of honour, however. British politics needs more “bloody difficult women”, May declared as the race narrowed to a head-to-head between her and Andrea Leadsom.