Friday 9 July 2010

What's Gove got to do, got to do with it?

"What I can tell you is any cabinet minister, if I win the election, who comes to me and says: 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again."
David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show, Sunday May 2nd 2010.

Education Secretary Michael Gove's shambolic handling of his announcement of cuts to the school building programme, cancelling improvements to 700 schools has Westminster agog.

This led to what The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow calls "one of the most grovelling apologies ever heard from the dispatch box in modern times". Having gone on to apologise to the LGA yesterday, Gove's apology tour is to include personal visits to around 25 schools given false information about what the cuts mean for them.

Ed Balls wants to focus on the substance as well as the process, arguing in today's Guardian that "The shambolic nature of the announcement betrays the sheer thoughtlessness of the process. If each plan had genuinely been considered on its merits these errors would not have happened".

Conservative MPs have promoted the extreme deficit hawk position of the budget, there are now significant rumblings of discontent when it comes to axeing school building projects in their constituencies, despite David Cameron's clear promise that cutting "waste" would do enough to reduce the budget.

So badly flunking his first major policy decision as a Cabinet Minister may badly affect Gove's political standing in the long-term. Even this week's New Statesman, which hit the newstands just after Gove's Commons apology, captures how often the former Times journalist has been written up as a Cabinet star, with Mehdi Hasan writing.

Meanwhile, those Lib Dem backbenchers sceptical of the coalition's plans to introduce Swedish-style "free schools" are being frogmarched by the party's high command into the Department of Education. They emerge, according to one source, "starry-eyed from meetings with Michael Gove. They've gone in wanting to hate him but come out in awe of him."

There will be very few people rushing to Ladbrokes to back Gove as next Tory leader, where he is listed at the ludicrously short odds of 5/1, joint favourite with Boris Johnson, a status he is very unlikely to maintain.

It would be difficult to identify a more rapid reversal of political fortune in the last 20 years. Perhaps one would have to go back to the meteoric rise and rapid descent of Margaret Thatcher's Social Security secretary John Moore, was said to have "future Tory leader written all over him" before sinking quickly back to anonymity as it quickly became apparent he had been overpromoted.

Gove has, however, been immortalised on twitter, where a good deal of creative energy has gone into thinking of #govesongs which sum up the fiasco.

Here are a few highlights from the soundtrack:

We don't need no education

(Definitely not) Another brick in the wall

Why Do You Build Me Up (Just To Let Me Down)

Gove Will Tear Us Apart

Tainted Gove

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

Future state of Britain's schools? Gove Shack!

Stop! In The Name of Gove

He's making a list he's checking it twice - your gonna find out he's naughty not nice- michael gove is cutting your school

And I would close 500 schools and I would close 500 more...

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