Michael Gove‘s departure from the Department for Education is the biggest shock of this reshuffle. Tory MPs have been even more surprised by it than they were William Hague’s leaving the Foreign Office.
Downing Street is keen to stress that the education reform agenda doesn’t leave the DfE with Gove. The changes to the junior ministerial line-up at the department bolsters this argument, Nick Gibb—no friend of the teaching unions—returns as Minister of State for schools and Nick Boles, a close ally of Gove and a man brave enough to take on vested interests wherever he finds them, takes over the Skills Brief.
But, if the reform agenda is continuing, why not just make Liz Truss Education Secretary? She’s worked with Gove for the past few years as one of his junior ministers and knows the brief well. The decision to give it to a clean skin in Nicky Morgan, previously an effective Treasury Ministers, suggests at the very least a desire to move on from past battles.
As for Gove’s new role, it is clear he isn’t being silenced. He is one of the four musketeers who’ll be out and about defending the government and promoting the Tory cause in the broadcast studios between now and the election. He’ll also be an influential figure in Number 10, attending the 8.30am and 4pm meetings as well as sitting on all the key Cabinet committees.
But Gove is no longer running a department and has been separated from his great moral crusade of education reform. One senior Cameroon counters that what’s most important now is winning the next election and bringing Gove into the centre makes that more likely. If the Tories do win in 2015, I’m told Gove will return to running a big department.