- Created: Tuesday, 01 April 2014 13:00
Education Secretary Michael Gove has hit the headlines non-stop this year as he raises the banner of neo-conservatism over the heads of the coalition government to show that he stands for the interests of the right bloc.
In a bid to spike old Etonian Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership pretensions, Gove said that the number of Etonians (fees £33,000 a year) in government circles is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘I don’t know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy’. Gove’s usual cant is that the education system must be changed so that each child can be ‘the author of their own life story’. Lies and sentimentality hide the deep purposes of Gove, which are to dismantle and privatise state education, selling it off to profit-making businesses or giving it away to ideological friends. This is the real project behind his academy and ‘free’ schools programmes.
Labour Peer Baroness Sally Morgan of Huyton was a former aide to Tony Blair and chosen by Gove to be the Chair of Ofsted, the inspectorate. Morgan has now fallen out of favour and has been sacked despite the support of the Head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw. He had better be careful. Wilshaw was recently ‘incandescent with rage’ because he suspected that he was being briefed against by Gove and his ‘attack dogs’ at the Department for Education (DfE). Gove has built a dedicated group around him within the education department who run an anonymous e-mail account (called Mrs Blur) to target perceived enemies with aggressive personal insults and any individual who criticises the Gove agenda can be the next victim.
While Gove claims that he protects his family from the media he is quite prepared to use his children when it suits him. His daughter has been offered a place at Grey Coat Hospital School, a highly selective Church of England academy established in Westminster in 1698, which makes him the first Tory Cabinet Minister to send their child to a ‘state’ school. Sarah Vine, Gove’s wife and a journalist with a regular column in the Daily Mail writes that while Grey Coat School ‘is not exactly Sinkhouse High’ it will still give their daughter a comprehensive education. Clearly not as comprehensive as Burlington Danes Church of England School which is one minute away from the family home and is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Perhaps the rising numbers of children eligible for free school meals (the standard measure of deprivation) put Gove off, 67.6%, compared with just 14% of Grey Coat school children. This is a higher rate than some other nearby religious schools. The Sacred Heart Girls School has just 6% of its pupils eligible for free school meals while the London Oratory, just down the road and chosen for the Blairs’ children, has 7% compared with an average of 33% in the locality.
Talking bollocks about free school meals
In February the finances for the long-promised introduction of free school meals for all children under seven were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. New funding of £70m to allow schools to build kitchens and expand dining rooms will come from the Treasury and £80m from the underspend in the schools maintenance budget. The Gove faction at the DfE responded to Clegg’s announcement with sabotage and sulks. The media was immediately flooded with stories about schools having one hour’s notice to provide dinners, head teachers in a panic and rich kids pigging it at taxpayers’ expense. A DfE source said ‘there is no spare money either in basic needs or the maintenance budget to pay for Clegg’s Kitchens’. ‘The DfE are going rogue, they are talking bollocks’ a senior Liberal Democrat responded. ‘There is a £157 million maintenance underspend of which we are going to spend £80m on this and they are going to spend the other money on free schools. That is a fact. The DfE are lying to you if they are saying otherwise’.
Gove goes forth for king and country
Gove has pledged £50m in public money to mark the First World War, with school trips to battlefields and ceremonies planned over four years. He has directed schools to repackage the war as ‘a just war’ against German militarism and British troops as sincere defenders of King and Country. While Gove has denounced the television series Blackadder Goes Forth as unpatriotic, he has not yet banned the war poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others from the classroom but it is not unthinkable that he would.
Never a man to talk of ‘the pity of war’, Gove could not cover up his fury at the House of Commons vote in August 2013 against the use of military intervention in Syria. Gove, who calls himself a ‘proud Zionist’, strongly supports the armed might of US and UK global interests, as in Libya. He reportedly called Labour backbencher Dai Havard a Nazi. Havard is said to have been furious with Gove’s alleged Nazi jibe, telling colleagues: ‘If he does it again, I’ll deck him’.
Lenin, Malcolm X and Gove
Gove has portraits of Lenin and Malcolm X on his office walls. No doubt he is being provocative, demonstrating that he is a match for men of big ideas. If no portrait of his former employer Rupert Murdoch is there it is because it does not need to be. Gove testified to the Leveson inquiry that he regards Murdoch as ‘one of the most impressive and significant figures of the last 50 years’. They share the neo-con view that the world must be conquered for the interests of the multinational corporations using any means necessary, be it militarism, celebrity culture or racism. If Gove continues in post beyond the next election there will be very many who will be happy to join in and ‘deck’ him.