Coffee House

Michael Gove is being helped by Labour’s poor discipline and weak attacks

16 June 2014

6:00 PM

16 June 2014

6:00 PM

It doesn’t really matter whether Dominic Cummings’ Times interview was unhelpful to Michael Gove. Labour has just been about as helpful to the Education Secretary as it possibly could be without announcing that it supports everything he does, right down to the detail of the history curriculum. Education questions this afternoon was the perfect opportunity to exploit the gift of an interview in which Gove’s trusted former adviser attacked David Cameron and the Number 10 operation. But the attack never really came.

Kevin Brennan asked about Cummings’ line that he signed into government departments and Number 10 as ‘Osama bin Laden’. Gove’s reply was, as predicted, ornate and beautifully defensive. Then nothing until late in the session when Lisa Nandy and Karen Buck asked about Cummings’ access to departments.

Instead, Tristram Hunt used his slot in topical questions to ask about the oversight of academies and free schools following the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal. He asked:

‘In 2010, Mr Speaker, the Department for Education was warned of threats to schools in Birmingham. For four years, his department, on his watch, failed to act. The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is now urging the government to provide greater public assurance that all schools in a locality, regardless of their status, discharge the full range of their responsibilities. When will the Secretary of State accept that micromanaging schools from behind a desk in Whitehall doesn’t work and we need a proper system of independent, local accountability?’


Gove replied:

‘Well, um, er, Mr Speaker, I suspect that that question will not just be shown on the Parliamentary channel, but also on UKTV Gold, because it’s a magnificent repeat! These were precisely the questions that the honourable gentlemen asked last week in his statement. The truth is that we took action that the last government never did to deal with extremism in schools and we’ve also taken action not least to introduce no notice inspections which will ensure that her majesty’s chief inspector has powers that he was denied under the last government to deal with problems that started under the last government.’

Hunt argued that he still hadn’t got an answer. He then criticised Gove’s schools model, arguing that his own backbenchers were starting to suspect the Birmingham case was showing the flaws in this model. Gove’s response was to tease him again about the quality of his questions and the quality of Labour’s schools policy. And that was that.

Now, if Hunt had judged that Cummings’ gift was in fact some kind of poisoned chalice, then why not use Labour backbenchers to drive home the point about oversight? Labour has, he claims, a clear policy on this matter, so why not repeat it until everyone is sick to death of it? There’s no harm in asking the same question repeatedly if you’re dealing with as skilfully slippery a character as Michael Gove.

Either way, a smattering of MPs asking the least interesting question about Cummings, which is whether he’s still visiting government departments and whether he used a joke pseudonym to sign in, is not an effective attack. Labour’s backbench message discipline was very poor indeed today. Its frontbench attack was worse still. A combination of the two made it impossible for anyone to write this up as a ‘pressure on Gove’ story, either on the matter of his former adviser’s comments, or on the matter of supervision of academies and free schools.

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Show comments
  • HJ777

    It’s very easy for Gove.

    Look who Labour put up against him – Tristram Hunt, who makes Ed Miliband look worldly

  • John Smith

    Looks like Hunt is going to be another gift to the tories, like RedEd & Ed Balls

  • Holly

    What has some unknown bod making a comment about HIS personal view of Cameron got to do with the Education of our children?
    I have an opinion of Cameron that I very much doubt would have no effect on any schools in Birmingham, or anywhere else for that matter.

    If Labour had gone for Gove’s jugular over what some lurking, little ex-bod said about Cameron, while it would have been plastered all over the news, and seems to have disappointed you for some unknown reason, to us out here it would be completely meaningless.
    Because it has nothing to do with the education of children, the curriculum, exam grades, reforms, or Gove.

  • Kitty MLB

    The Labour front bench just vanish in the shadow of Michael
    Goves excellence. He just emphasizes how inadequate,
    churlish and pointless they are, and they are not good enough
    to be an alternative to the government which is the whole
    point of the Queens opposition.

    • telemachus

      You look at things through the eyes of the Westminster Village
      Gove is hated
      Hated by real people
      And with good reason
      He is destroying education as we know it
      The Trojan Horse is the tip of the iceberg
      When we look back at the background of forthcoming sectarian civil unrest in the Midlands we will trace it back to Gove’s dangerous policies
      Better your telegenic Olympic statue
      Not only right but easy on the female eye

      • Kitty MLB

        I’m no where near the Westminster Village and its
        delightful ivory tower that Tony & Gordon built.
        Michael Gove wishes every child to be able to read and
        write and to reach there very best. He is not on the
        side of the teaching unions and their cosy little eltist
        club and anyone who rattles the establishment that
        much is doing good.
        Dear Tristram, beautiful as the statue of Neptune in
        Florence, but unfortunately with a orb made of stone
        containing no living matter.

      • HJ777

        If he’s ‘destroying education’ as you know it, then that sounds rather like a recommendation.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Easy on the male eye rather. A gay icon! A bit too pansy fr most women, I think.

  • JP Janson De Couet

    The sneaky Lady Haw-Haw turns a Tory disaster into an attack on Labour.

    • Kitty MLB

      Labour were a unmitigated disaster for 13 years. That
      was just a little hiccup. Oh I hope Labour enjoy their time
      as the Queens opposition the traitors of Labours working
      class roots will be replaced by UKIP who will by my parties
      official opposition.

    • Holly

      Can you think for yourself without having to rely on media bods?
      The disaster here is Islam, the old, stale education system built up by Labour and the fight for change v status quo.
      Dumbing it down to, he said, she said as being the problem, is pathetic, and sums up Labour, their supporters, and the media.

  • Ian Walker

    Gove has vision and conviction. Labour have focus groups and brand managers. It’s like watching a supertanker versus a puddle.

    • Smithersjones2013

      So are you saying that a tiny bit of Labour (a puddle) leaves Gove the Supertanker stranded because a supertanker in a puddle would be stranded?

      Not to mention that supertankers are extremely large, unwieldy and difficult to control. I think your imagery leaves something to be desired……

      Even the puddle analogy sadly doesn’t work. Oh if the Labour party would just evaporate……..!

    • telemachus

      With Labour as the Supertanker
      Led by a dynamic charismatic team
      Would you prefer well rounded Ed Balls or wooden Osborne
      Lying May or sincere Yvette
      Smug Hunt or dynamic Burnham
      Let us get rid of this coalition shower

      • Ian Walker

        I’d prefer you to fuck off

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Take a million up ticks.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        I would prefer pond life to the shower of sh*t on the labour front bench. But forgive me, I repeat myself.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Ed Balls is certainly ’rounded’. Or more accurately, a fat, oafish, incompetent imbecile.

  • southerner

    Nobody cares about these fake handbag fights between the liblabcon.

    • Kitty MLB

      So predictable.. Yawn !