Why is Michael Gove a minister for the Today programme when he was removed as Education Secretary because of his poor poll ratings? This paradox has amused some in Westminster, but it’s not quite as confusing as it seems.
I hear that the new chief whip and enhanced Conservative campaigner will not be given quite such a free rein as it might seem. Indeed, those at the centre of the party are acutely aware of the dangers of sending out a man who already likes to have his say on many things that had nothing to do with education. They think that by bringing him into the centre, they can better control his outbursts. They could always lock him in a toilet when matters of foreign policy come up: today in the Commons Angela Eagle teased Gove for becoming stuck in the loo in the wrong division lobby on his first full day as chief whip while a vote was taking place.
I also understand that some of those who were key in pushing for Gove’s demotion/promotion/locomotion saw the columns that his wife Sarah Vine writes about him in the Daily Mail as another ‘unhelpful’ attribute.
In his column in this week’s Spectator, James says Gove will ‘appears to be a political version of the domestiques that you see in the Tour de France, the cyclists whose job it is to help the team leader to win’. He is particularly good at popping up on the radio in the middle of a government disaster, and this will be his remit. But he’s also very good at giving a sense of enthusiasm and moral mission about Conservatism. Last week at the 1922 Committee, David Cameron told MPs that the Tory campaign for the 2015 election wouldn’t just appeal to heads, but hearts as well. It would be a values-based campaign. And since Gove’s school reforms are the only moral mission-inspired changes that have actually been implemented (Universal Credit may be a moral mission too, but it’s going to be a mission to implement it even within the current timetable), he has plenty of values-based, positive stories to tell (like this one). If he sticks to the script, that is.
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