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Education Secretary flounders on changing gender at 16

Back to school for Gillian Keegan. It seems that the Education Secretary hasn’t learnt her lines properly, judging by her performance on this morning’s media round. The Chichester MP appeared on Sky’s breakfast show today, follows last night’s news that the Westminster government will block Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Keegan was invited by Kay Burley to give her thoughts on whether 16 is too young to decide your gender identity; the Education Secretary obligingly took the bait. ‘No, I don’t actually, I think 16, I was working at 16, I was paying tax at 16, I was making decisions for myself at 16.’ Such a view of course is not shared by either the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, Labour’s Keir Starmer or many of Keegan’s own Tory colleagues – with all but three at Holyrood voting against the measure last month.

Perhaps aware of the impact of her comments, Keegan later appeared to row back on GMB. In an awkward performance, she argued that ‘all 16-year-olds are different’ and ‘everybody has a different view’ amid persistent questioning from Susanna Reid and Ed Balls. She told the programme:

I said ‘Look, you know, at 16, I was working, I was paying tax’, but all 16-year-olds are different. Obviously, everybody has a different view. It’s really, really important that we take into account parents’ views, teachers’ views, children’s views, and other stakeholders’ views as well because it is quite tricky. But what I said was, you know, for me, myself, I felt able to take decisions for myself at 16. But… I’d grown up quite quickly and I was actually working full-time at 16.

More liberal than Keir Starmer? There’s one for the Tory posters.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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