Coffee House

Michael Gove and the fight for the moral high ground

3 February 2014

3:56 PM

3 February 2014

3:56 PM

Michael Gove’s speech today was, as James explained at the weekend, a pitch from the Tories to be the optimists of the 2015 election. He wanted to have a little boast about the success of the government’s education reforms in raising the desirability of a state education. He said:

‘When Channel Four make documentaries about great comprehensives – academies – in Essex and Yorkshire, when BBC3 make heroes out of tough young teachers, when even Tatler publishes a guide to the best state schools – you know tectonic plates have started to shift.’

This is hardly the running down of teachers or state schools that Gove’s critics like to complain about. But this speech has still attracted a fair bit of rage. This isn’t a great surprise, because Michael Gove now provokes rage from the teaching unions and the Left whenever he remarks on the weather, let alone praises his own education policies or announces anything new. The NUT’s Christine Blower said ‘it is time we had an Education Secretary that did more than play to the gallery’ and that his announcement of a longer school day would be ‘counterproductive’. Tristram Hunt says that ‘until Michael Gove commits to [ensuring all teachers have teaching qualifications], he is ruling himself out of any serious debate about how we raise standards in our schools’.

Why does the Left hate Gove so much? The unions don’t like him because they don’t like any possibility that the conditions for their members could change. That’s fair enough, because it’s their job to protect the best conditions possible for the teachers who pay union membership fees. But it doesn’t automatically give them a right to adjudicate on the wisdom of education reforms as a whole: they represent producers, not consumers. They also don’t like Gove because Gove likes fighting them. He’s a pugnacious sort and has decided that the only way to deal with the Blob is to engage in out-and-out warfare with it.

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Labour doesn’t like him because even though he’s continuing and developing Blair’s reforms (which, to be fair, plenty of Labour people didn’t like at the time anyway), they are possessive about the moral high ground on education, just as they are on the NHS. They’ve given up trying to stay on that high ground on welfare and immigration, and are simply trying to neutralise the party’s image in these areas, but they are more jealous of health and education, which is why Andy Burnham gave a speech today arguing that ‘the NHS has never been in a more dangerous position than it is right now’.

But Gove’s drive to make the Conservatives the party that ‘spreads privilege’ through school reform so that good education doesn’t need to be purchased through school fees or high house prices in a catchment area means it is worth being hated by unions and Labourites. Personally I think he could be a little less pugnacious: his tussle with Tristram Hunt over the First World War appeared to be a classic example of him starting a fight in an empty room, but it’s easy to see how scrapping becomes a habit when you have to deal with the Blob every day.

You can read the full speech here.

P.S. Incidentally, Dennis Sewell predicted in 2010 that this fight would be the ‘most thrilling contest’ of the Conservatives’ first 100 days in power: it still is one of the most vigorous and far less manufactured than anything the Lib Dems can come up with.


Elizabeth Truss, Tristram Hunt and Christine Blower will all be speaking at The Spectator’s next Schools Conference on 3 April 2014. Click here to find out more.


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Show comments
  • drydamol1

    BROKEN BRITISH POLITICS – LOONEY POLITICIANS OR LOONEY PUBLIC

    MRI scans can show Psychopathic Tendencies where there is
    a reduced propensity to empathize as opposed to empathizing when required .The
    State of Politics and Politicians today you would think the Entry Examination
    to become an MP ensured you were a Deceitful Liar,able to Rob the Taxpayer and
    do as little as possible for as much financial gain . Why aren’t Politicians
    automatically given a MRI scan to ensure our Law Makers are not Psychopaths/Sociopaths
    .

    Or is it us the
    Public need our heads testing because we let a tiny minority totally control us
    .We live under the Guise of Democracy but how can it be when Whips tell their
    MP’s how to vote for the total Benefit of their Party and not the Public .Many
    MP’s don’t even read the many Bills rushed through .

    We are constantly told lately that the Top Richest in
    this Country pay 30% of Taxes and are favoured, without the workforce that
    earned that money Tax would 0% .The Unions are so embroiled in Politics they
    have joined the BS Negotiation Club rather than act on our behalf .

    The Psychopath/ Sociopath
    is that truly self-absorbed individual with no conscience or feeling for others
    and for whom social rules have no meaning. Their emotionlessness reflects a
    detached, fearless, and possibly dissociated state .

    Charismatic
    Psychopaths are charming, attractive liars and they use it to their advantage
    in manipulating others. They are usually fast-talkers, and possess an almost
    demonic ability to persuade others out of everything they own, even their
    lives.

    Well if Cameron ,Blair ,ID Smith and Grayling just to
    mention a few aren’t classed as Psychopathic you may as well put Psychiatry and
    Psychology in the Bin .

    http://brokenbritishpolitics.simplesite.com

  • Radford_NG

    Gove ,like Blair; goes to a carefully selected school in London.

    It would have been more impressive,and topical,if he had made it in Winson Green or Lozells.How many `free schools ` are there in those districts? How many children from James Turner St. are actually attending Perry Beeches? (See Birmingham Mail:3rd Sept. 2012)

    • Makroon

      “Those districts” are still firmly under the heel of the blob. There are plenty more battles for Gove to fight and win yet.

  • Julieann Carter

    Mr Gove benefits from having us parents, not only on his side, but robustly urging him on. He is a sharp and confident debater who will not be forced into positions of semi-submissive, back-footed tomes of perpetual defence and justification.
    Otherwise known as ‘hand-wringing angst’, I believe.
    The vicious Left are unable to bully and shame him, so naturally they hate him.
    They seem to believe it’s their divine right to be accepted as a consultative higher authority, for which permission must be sought and granted by the elected Conservative government.
    I believe these relentless attacks on Mr Gove are similar in nature to that of a fought custody battle between warring parents.
    Having lost custody, and now visitation rights perceived as a little diminished after the recent non renewal of contract of their Ofsted Labour Baroness, they’re panicking!

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Brilliant. Thanks for saving me the trouble of making the same points.

  • Kitty MLB

    Good god ! The excellent Michael Gove does not need to fight for the moral high ground, its well and truly his.
    I am sick and tired of people criticizing this man who wishes to make education
    about the children instead of tribal teaching unions and their cosy jobs.
    Education for far too long as been at the mercy of leftie dominated dinosaurs,
    who are against progress, why have that when you can have future benefit claimants.
    Gove’s job is one of the most important in government, he has a uphill battle
    and there is no other more suited for the task- he may be a Cameroon,
    but an excellent one.

    • Fred Scuttle

      “The excellent Michael Gove does not need to fight for the moral high ground, its well and truly his.”

      Are you his mum?

      • Kitty MLB

        Its Freddie, who spreads joy and hope around the world.
        No I am not him mum, but might add, mums carry the gift of life.
        Yes, I know, its all meaningless and nothing.

        • Fred Scuttle

          What makes you think that I think that everything is meaningless?

          • Kitty MLB

            Freddie, you do not believe in the continuation of the human
            soul. But please have mercy on mine, and release me from
            this topic.

            • Fred Scuttle

              The soul i a brain function, When your brain dies, so it does too. It isn’t all that difficult to understand.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Tristram Hunt Posh-Punt says that ‘until Michael Gove commits to [ensuring all
    teachers have teaching qualifications], he is ruling himself out of any
    serious debate about how we raise standards in our schools’.

    So lets get this right. “Posh-Punt” is saying that you have to be assimilated like some Borg clone before you can add to a child’s education? Well thats Labour all over.

  • Mynydd

    It’s all talk, what new policy did Mr Gove announce today? It’s all about Mr Gove moving himself up the ‘I am ready to take over from Mr Cameron’ ladder. In a couple of days Mrs May will make a similar speech design for her to go up a step and push Mr Gove down a couple. In the mean time Mr Cameron is holed up in No10 fighting Mrs Cameron over the TV remote

    • the viceroy’s gin

      I’m seeing that as well. The other poshboys now seem to understand that Dave is finished, and the jockeying is beginning. They’ll give Little Boy Gove some play, but the blowhard albino will be waiting in the wings as well, no doubt. They need an ostensibly clean face, to replace Dave, no matter that they’ll be his philosophical duplicate, whoever they are.

      • Makroon

        No surprise that the socialist, offshore gin swiller, makes common cause with the domestic variety to bring the country down.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …what are you jabbering about now, lad? That your socialist hero Dave is going down hard?

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      A bit like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair then you witless Labour Troll.

      • Mynydd

        So you agree that they are all fighting over Mr Cameron position.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          No but I agree that you are a pointless, worthless, unproductive Labour Troll.

          • Fred Scuttle

            It’s you that’s doing the trolling.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              I am afraid that trolling is solely the preserve of the left. You loathe debate and have a visceral hatred of democracy and freedom of speech. Indeed, anybody who dares suggest that the left does not have a monopoly on morality, empathy, sympathy and caring is immediately demonised by the lefts ‘trollerati’. You are a perfect match with Labour the party of lies, lying and liars.

              • Fred Scuttle

                You have a loyal friend in whoever is doing the moderating on here.

                Gove doesn’t care about anyone but himself and how good he looks. The teachers are an irrelevance to him.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  That is because it is not about “the teachers” but the aspirations and ambitions of the pupils and their families. We have excellent private schools which are attended by pupils from all over the World. Mr Gove’s stated ambition is to bring our state schools up to a similar standard. That seems a laudable ambition to me and if he has to destroy a few vested interests in the process and ignore the idiot unions that seems a reasonable price to pay. As to Mr Gove’s personal ambitions, the last time I looked there was no law against personal aspiration. That said, I have no doubt that a Labour Party dedicated to mediocrity, failure and producer interests would happily pass a law to stifle ambition and achievement.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Yes, you would love to have any opinion you disapprove of moderated wouldn’t you? Thank you for proving my point hat the left hates freedom of speech and contrary opinion. Are you Gordon Brown by any chance?

                • Fred Scuttle

                  I never report posts, but I had an entirely inoffensive one of mine removed.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Again, how very leftist. Everything I do and say is ‘inoffensive’ but woe betide anybody who disagrees with me.

                • Fred Scuttle

                  You are a pointless, worthless, unproductive right wing Troll.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Trolling is a leftist pastime and I am well to do so hardly unproductive. You, in contrast, are a fatuous semi-literate devoid of original thought.

  • James Strong

    Interesting photo.
    Was Gove visiting a school in Pakistan? Or was it India?

  • CharlietheChump

    Pugnacious Gove does it for me, shame there’s only one of him, imagine what could be achieved with 2 or 3 more of similar ability, vision and drive,

  • Ulysses Returns

    The excellent Michael Gove belongs to the “when you have them by the throat, start kicking them in the balls” variety of change-bringers, and I heartily support him. If only Cameron and Osborne had half his fighting spirit. I have just spent a very productive and satisfying afternoon tormenting the teachers and assorted lefties on CiF on Gove’s (non)sacking of the Quangocrat Sally Morgan. Gove is a man who knows where he wants to go and knows how to get there. If he ruffles feathers, treads on feet, offends sensibilities on the way, then so much the better. You may think he should be a ‘little less pugnacious’ Ms Hardman, but I wish we had more Tories like Gove, fighting their respective Blobs with no holds barred, and sticking it to Labour and the vested interests until they squeal like the egregious Sally Morgan is now doing.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      …and here we are, yet more name dropping and pep talk (as predicted) to prepare the audience that not all is well in the PM camp at all. Will he last a) another week, b) another month, c) until the May results come in or is it d) until the Scots have spoken? Surely there are no further options.

    • In2minds

      Ulysses Returns says – “If only Cameron and Osborne had half his fighting spirit”

      Possibly, but half his brains would be better! Gove is a rare thing in his party.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Agreed, the occasion when he put the boot into Harriet Harman on one of the late night political chat shows. Brilliant, he eviscerated her and then stamped on the entrails.

        • Andy

          She is a pompous and very stupid woman.

          • rubyduck

            She is astonishingly dim. Hard to fathom how even the talent-starved Labour party can keep her in a prominent position.

            • SimonToo

              As ever, it is who you are, not what you are, that counts.

          • Kitty MLB

            Indeed she was, and needed to go.

    • telemachus associates

      Interesting that Gove is not alone in his ignorant pugnaciousness.
      Has nobody thought to tell you (and Gove) that you are likely to get more out of people by listening praising and motivating.
      Yes you can lead but there is little point in simply antagonising your workforce.
      Why do all in the Education Department hate him?
      Why do all teachers hate him?
      He will get nowhere.
      Thankfully he will not be with us much longer.
      A good friend calls him an educational social Darwinist reminiscent of the Germany of the 30’s.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Hello idiot #1 has idiot school closed early and left the ret of us with your ludicrous presence? When you refer to “ignorant pugnacious ness” I thought it was a reference to that worthless, catastrophic pig Ed Balls. Ignoring the ludicrousness of the suggestion that everyone hates him the answer is that it is because he is scouring the rancid filth of socialism from the British education system with its culture of mediocrity and failure so beloved by Labour the party of lies, lying and liars.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Well said. Try and imagine that unproductive, leeching, worthless, whining, idiot Morgan holding down a highly demanding job in the private sector like a paper round.

    • Makroon

      Gove realises that it is not enough to change policy and make speeches. The road-block opposition have to be taken on, confronted and (gently) provoked, before public opinion will start to shift.

  • willshome

    George Orwell thou shouldst be living at this hour, to tease out the ramifications of Tory Newspeak. How can a supposedly educated man describe thousands of dedicated professionals (including the heroes and heroines of Educating Yorkshire that they now seem to claim credit for) as “The Blob” – a usage that I see the Ministry of Truth’s tame Tory Nick Robinson is today trying to popularise further.

    Has it occurred to anyone that the majority of the population don’t wish, for their own children, a carbon copy of the education the Tory Cabinet received? Surely the idea of one’s child turning out to be a little tick like Michael Gove must be every parent’s nightmare.

    • Alexsandr

      I thought blob was the civil service, not teachers.
      I would rather my kids were at a good school than one of the sink council estate dreadful comprehensives.

      • CharlietheChump

        Exactly. The Blob is unnecessary socialist bureaucracy. Good teachers make the difference and a 1 year PGCE a good teacher does not make!

        • Alexsandr

          the question is if a teacher qualification makes one a better teacher.

          • iviv44

            Surely the relevant comparison is between a trainee at the end of the PGCE and at the end of a year of on-the-job training.

            I would suspect that this would depend on the person, the school and the course. You would hope that the PGCE course should better but I don’t doubt this is by no means always the case.

            I also should say that the complete unwillingness of the vast majority in the teaching profession to try to understand what Gove is trying to do does rather makes his argument for him.

        • Fred Scuttle

          Schools like employing them because they are cheap. They don’t need to be any good as long as they keep the paperwork up to date so they look good.

    • Fergus Pickering

      What sort of an education do they want? Bog standard Comprehensive?

      • Makroon

        Now that they’ve fully repudiated even the Blairite pretence – then, yes, probably. (Not for their own kids, mind).

        • Fergus Pickering

          Let them eat turkey twizzlers.

          • Kitty MLB

            Yes very good, both of you fellows.
            Junk, pretend food, manufactured , sloppy mess under a plastic cover.
            To match the equally, manufactured plastic fakery, that
            were the Blairites – both bad for your bank balance, wellbeing
            and will make you vomit .
            Might I please just add, junk food has been proven to slow the brain down, as does the Leftie education system.

            • Fergus Pickering

              I always eat well. My wife is a very good cook and I’m OK myself. There’s a good greasy spoon once a week for breakfast. And he has the papers. And there’s posh restaurants and in the summer pubs by the river. .

              • Kitty MLB

                Fergus, dear chap I never assumed your good lady
                feed you turkey tweezers ( mind you, my hubby likes chicken nuggets- but we were children of the 60s)
                Its very good that you are ok, I am sure people will be relieved
                I do apologise though, far too posh for a greasy spoon,
                but like summer pubs- Not too sure what this has to do with Blairism- although I prefer to be whimisical , mischievous and never serious myself.
                I shall drift off like a scented breeze- I thought I actually responded to makroon myself- my mistake- apologies.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Do you mean educated, aspirational, energetic, cultured and determined. I agree what parent would want that for their child. Much better to be a mediocrity and a failure like a good little Labour voter and claim your benefits on a regular basis. You noisome little tick.

  • Gerald.Wright

    Tories “taking the moral high ground” they don’t even know where it is.

    • CharlietheChump

      Right under Gove’s feet. The sad failing leftie consensus is breaking apart from the shameful sink school to the hospital killing patients in their thousands.
      You’ve been rumbled Gerry baby.

    • HookesLaw

      Ignorant blinkered comment. Labour have destroyed the prospects of countless thousands of children. They are beneath contempt.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Claims of moral superiority by the party that gave us all those needless deaths at Mid-Staffs is truly disgusting. Labour the party of lies, lying and lies.

        • Andy

          Labour, the party of murderers, thieves and assorted scum.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      As if Labour the party of lies, lying and filthy liars has any right to the moral high ground. The unmitigated filth of the Labour Party did it’s very best to destroy this country. You will be telling us that Labour politicians have principles next! Ask the 1,200 people who died needlessly at Mid-Staffs what they think of Labour’s claims to moral superiority. Oh no, you can’t…….

      • Makroon

        Many Labour politicians are decent men and women with principles.
        Absolutely not, the Brown gang thugs who control the party though.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …yes, and you socialist Cameroons share those principles, along with your hero the H2B.

    • Andy

      You don’t even know what moral means.
      Get ye back to the New Statesman where scum like you belong.

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