X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

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?’

[Alt-Text]


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.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close