School reform is economically essential for Britain’s future success, morally necessary for a fairer, more socially mobile society and politically essential for a centre-right party that wants to show that it is about spreading privilege not defending it. This is why Michael Gove’s agenda is so important to the Tories and their future success.
Gove was always going to face opposition. Members of the National Union of Teachers hustled David Blunkett and his guide dog into a room and then screamed at him for merely condemning school strikes from opposition in 1995. They were, obviously, going to do far worse to a radical Tory Education Secretary. Then, there was the Department for Education itself which was never going to be happy implementing a plan which involved it jettisoning most of its role, and a sizable number of the civil servants there losing their jobs. Furthermore, there was always going to be resistance from self-interested local councilors who will lose their grip over education under Gove’s reforms.
Last but not least, there was the ‘quiet life brigade’—those who were exhausted by the Education Secretary’s energy. They regard his warning about how other countries were outstripping Britain as overblown.
Gove, as Toby Young says, has been taking on these opponents with vigour and has made considerable progress. But in the last few months, Gove has also had to battle with his coalition partners and recently he has also had to face a Tory whispering campaign against him.
As I say in the magazine this week, the loudest voices in this whispering campaign belong to Boris Johnson’s followers. They are under the mistaken impression that Gove is spending his time for a George Osborne leadership bid. Based on extensive conversations in the last ten days, I believe that not to be the case. Crucially, Gove only expressed his preference for George Osborne when pressed on the matter.
It is time for Tories to put aside these internecine struggles and instead concentrate on supporting and entrenching the reforms that Gove is making.
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