Unsurprisingly, Michael Gove’s FT interview in which he attacked the ‘preposterous’ number of Old Etonians around David Cameron – widely interpreted as a sally on behalf of George Osborne – has gone down like a lead balloon with the Prime Minister. I understand that Cameron had a stern word with the Education Secretary over the weekend, with one source telling me that ‘he was torn a new one and given a right royal bollocking’.
Cameron has made it very clear to Gove that his words were ‘bang out of order’ and that his aim is to focus on the Cabinet job in hand, not go on freelance missions.
Meanwhile, those supporting Boris’s leadership ambitions are deeply amused by the amount of energy being expended by the Osborne camp on furthering his prospects on the Tory backbenches. One says ‘George is taking this far more seriously than Boris. Boris doesn’t have a proper operation, but George does. The only thing bigger than the pro-George operation, though, is the stop-George operation.’ The stop-George operation isn’t an organised one, but it’s made up of ambitious Tories who wouldn’t want him siphoning off all the votes in a leadership contest, those who don’t think he would make an appealing party leader, and a small but stubborn group of MPs who have a personal grudge.
Update, 9pm: Perhaps the PM will need to organise an orderly queue of ministers who need a ticking off. Baroness Warsi has tonight gone on ITV’s The Agenda (to be broadcast at 10.35pm) to pose with this:
She told Tom Bradby:
‘Michael was making an incredibly serious point that it can’t be right that the 7% of kids who go to independent school end up at the top tables, not just of politics, but banking, and law, and every other profession, and that what Michael wants to create is a first class, world class state system which means that in future years you will have more pupils from state schools, people like me, around the cabinet table, and in that I fully support Michael Gove.’
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.