Michael Gove MP

19 Sep 2013 06:10:30

Today's Tory MPs awayday will be told that the 40/40 strategy is now a 50/40 strategy

By Paul Goodman
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Today's Conservative Parliamentary Party awayday takes place at a mystery location in Oxfordshire - indeed and to be more specific, in David Cameron's constituency, I am told.  Downing Street is presenting it as a chance for the Prime Minister to "listen to the views and concerns of Conservative MPs".  Predictably, Cameron will address the gathering.  Almost as predictably, so will Lynton Crosby.  Break-out sessions on policy will be led by George Osborne, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.

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13 Apr 2013 12:57:39

Gove on Thatcher's record and legacy: "Social bonds need to be nurtured more carefully"

by Paul Goodman
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Gove IDCC9George Osborne was first off the blocks to commemorate Margaret Thatcher, doing so in the Times (£), and Owen Paterson was second, doing so on this site.  Other have followed since, and all have been laudatory.  Michael Gove has held back until today, despite being seen by many admirers of Thatcher as the Cabinet Minister who, in government, has followed in her footsteps most closely, for three main reasons.

First, he's had more executive impact than any other Cabinet Minister - thus making an impact, as she did.  Second, he's done so at Education, a department often seen as having institutional centre-left sympathies; certainly it was certainly a department which frustrated and tamed her when she was herself Secretary of State.  Finally, his free schools policy in particular is winning converts for conservatism, or at least a hearing for its views and values in places where it previously hasn't always had one.  Gove has learned Thatcherite lessons about raiding behind the opposition's lines and reaching "the rising class".

His piece behind the Times paywall is therefore all the more interesting because it is the least hagiographical of all those that have appeared to date.  Gove acknowledges his early socialism, but writes that by the time he went to University he knew that "while half the world was ruled by tyrannies and totalitarian cliques, Britain had a leader determined to liberate them" - a nod to his still-undimmed neo-conservative take on foreign policy.

However, he adds that "the attitude of my generation of Conservatives is now more complex." Why? Because the transition from a manufacturing economy to a modern one meant that the Eighties were "years of loss and sorrow for millions".  The Education Secretary says that "social bonds need to be nurtured more carefully", and lauds the values of "care, nurture and solidarity that protect the vulnerable at times of change".

The sum of the article is that while some Conservatives of his generation saw Thatcher as "mother", the grown-up course for them now is to go their own way - acknowledging, as adults must, that while children should honour their parents, they must also live their own lives.  It is a strikingly bold and critical take - Thatcherite in breaking a cosy consensus; confirmation that Gove likes to go his own way, and risky, in terms of his relationship with the party's right.

2 Mar 2013 12:45:14

We're governed less by professional politicians than we think

By Paul Goodman
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The combination of Eastleigh and Italy have between them unleashed a tidal wave of commentary about the drawbacks of being governed by the professional politics.  Consider Charles Moore's column in today's Daily Telegraph:

"Eastleigh brings out something which more and more voters feel. A quarter of a century ago, when people used to complain in pubs that “they’re all the same”, I used to argue back: it seemed to me patently false. Today, I stay quiet. Nigel Farage says that we have three social democrat parties now. There is a bit of truth in that, but I would put it differently. It is not so much that they all think the same thing. It is more that they are all the same sort of people. They all belong to a political elite whose attitudes and careers are pretty different from those of the rest of us."

Even the briefest inspection of David Cameron and Ed Miliband supports this view.  Miliband has been a full-time political apparatchick since University.  Cameron briefly had a job in television, but not a career: the post was acknowledged to be a waiting room for the Commons, even by his employers.

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22 Dec 2012 11:12:39

Conservatives dominate the top 20 most mentioned politicians of 2012

By Matthew Barrett
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The annual newspaper index report by Hanover Communications into media coverage of MPs shows that 12 of the top 20 most-mentioned politicians are Conservatives. The index, which measures newspaper coverage over the last year, shows few Labour frontbenchers have media profiles, with only Ed Balls and Ed Miliband featuring in the list.

I list below the top twenty politicians and the number of mentions they received:

  • David Cameron - 18384
  • George Osborne - 9531
  • Ed Miliband - 6211
  • Nick Clegg - 6155
  • Boris Johnson - 3320
  • Michael Gove - 2844
  • Tony Blair - 2694
  • Gordon Brown - 2387
  • Ed Balls - 2201
  • Vincent Cable - 2061
  • Theresa May - 1743
  • Andrew Lansley - 1621
  • William Hague - 1580
  • Jeremy Hunt - 1525
  • John Major - 960
  • Ken Livingstone - 861
  • Andrew Mitchell - 858
  • Nadine Dorries - 857
  • Iain Duncan Smith - 857
  • Ed Davey - 823

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9 Dec 2012 08:21:49

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove sign up to new Tory-led campaign for same-sex marriage

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2012-12-09 at 08.24.45

As reported widely in today's written and broadcast media a new Tory-led group has been formed to support equal marriage. You can read more about 'Freedom to Marry' on its website.

I should declare an interest. Some months ago I made a conservative case for gay marriage on this website and I've joined the group as one of its supporters. The other initial supporters are listed below:

  1. Gavin Barwell MP
  2. Lord Black of Brentwood    
  3. Alistair Burt MP
  4. Iain Dale, Publisher and LBC Radio Presenter
  5. Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
  6. Jane Ellison MP
  7. The Rt Hon The Lord Fowler PC    
  8. The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
  9. The Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP (the driving force behind the group and author of an article for The Sunday Telegraph)
  10. Kris Hopkins MP
  11. Margot James MP
  12. Bernard Jenkin MP
  13. Boris Johnson
  14. The Rt Hon Patrick McLouglin MP
  15. The Baroness Noakes    
  16. Matthew Parris, Journalist
  17. The Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP
  18. Paul Swaddle, President of the Conservative Party National Convention
  19. The Rt Hon Desmond Swayne TD MP

As media outlets have noted the support of evangelical Christians Alistair Burt and Desmond Swayne as well as the Catholic Cabinet minister Patrick McLoughlin is an indication of the group's broad base. More high-profile supporters will be announced in the coming days and weeks.

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24 Nov 2012 12:09:15

Tory MPs - and Michael Gove - react to Rotherham council UKIP foster parents story

By Matthew Barrett
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Paul Goodman and Harry Phibbs have already covered this strange case of UKIP-supporting foster parents having children taken away from them by the council in Rotherham. Such a breach of political freedom and liberty has been greeted with concern by a number of Tory MPs - including the Education Secretary, Michael Gove - in tweets and elsewhere. I have collected some below.

Gove pointingMichael Gove has released a statement (via here):

"Rotherham have made the wrong decision in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. Rotherham's reasons for denying this family the chance to foster are indefensible. The ideology behind Rotherham's decision is actively harmful to children. We should not allow considerations of ethnic or cultural background to prevent children being placed with loving and stable families. We need more parents to foster and many more to adopt. Any council that decides supporting a mainstream UK political party disbars an individual from looking after children in care is sending a dreadful signal that will only decrease the number of loving homes available to children in need."

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20 Aug 2012 18:12:25

Philip Davies MP gets assurances from Michael Gove that EU must not brainwash Britain's schoolchildren

By Tim Montgomerie
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This morning's Express urges Michael Gove to write to every teacher in Britain warning them not to propagandise for the European Union. The newspaper is responding to suggestions that the EU is funding pro-Brussels propaganda in Britain's schools. The EU's Spring Day in Europe project, for example, encourages “debates and pedagogical games [which] should focus on the history, the current developments of the EU, its policies and its future such as: European integration, citizenship, previous achievements and the concrete benefits brought to citizens in their daily lives by the Union”. My emphasis.

In this video we see an EU official, Judith Schilling, at a Birmingham education exhibition being very clear about her intentions:

“We are here to offer to the teachers the resources produced by the European Commission’s office in London but also the ones we are being given by the directorates general in Brussels and Luxembourg. Because everybody has now picked up the idea that we will never succeed in convincing people about the value of being a member of the European Union if we do not start early enough with the young people, before they form prejudices and are misinformed by other sources.”

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21 Jun 2012 17:04:10

Michael Gove defends O-Level plan as a path towards "a more equal education system"

By Matthew Barrett
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In the House earlier today, Michael Gove defended himself from Labour attacks against his plan to scrap GCSEs and return to the O-Level system. 

As Labour MPs criticised the Secretary of State for Education for wanting to return to "1950s qualifications", and mocked him for "ditching his Thatcherite credentials" (GCSEs were introduced by Keith Joseph in the mid-1980s)*, Mr Gove calmly set out the need for Britain to have "world-class qualifications" if we are to satisfy the concerns of parents - and compete economically with other world powers:

"We want a curriculum which prepares all children for success, at 16 and beyond, by broadening what is taught in our schools and improving how it is assessed ... A state school system in which every child is challenged to do much better, where there are no excuses for failure, where every child is introduced to the best… and given every opportunity to achieve their utmost."

A dramatic improvement in schools is necessary, Mr Gove argued because...

"The sad truth is that if we look at the objective measure of how we did over the last 10 or 15 years, in reading our score in international league tables fell from 523 to 494; in maths from 529 to 492; and in science from 528 to 514. Every objective academic study of what has happened in our education system has drawn attention to the weakness of our qualifications."

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19 Jun 2012 11:49:42

Asked to make a statement on his Departmental responsibilities, Michael Gove replies: "Today is the birthday of Britain's greatest living poet"

By Paul Goodman
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Hansard records the exchange as follows:

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): Today is the 80th birthday of the Oxford Professor of Poetry, Professor Sir Geoffrey Hill, our greatest living poet. I am sure that the whole House would like to join me in wishing him a very happy birthday, and thanking him for the fantastic work that he has done.

Sir Geoffrey was knighted in the new year honours. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) was knighted in the recent Queen’s birthday honours, and I am sure that the whole House will also want to join me in congratulating him on his well-deserved elevation.

Sir Tony Baldry: I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his kind comments. Is he aware of the work being done by the Oxford diocesan board of education in setting up a unit to give full support to Church of England primary schools that wish to become academies, and does he share my hope that other diocesan boards of education will do likewise?

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20 Apr 2012 13:54:55

One hundred Tory MPs turn out for grammar schools reception

By Tim Montgomerie
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On Tuesday evening Graham Brady hosted the fourth parliamentary reception of 'Friends of Grammar Schools'. About one hundred Tory MPs turned out - one-third of the parliamentary party - to mix with representatives of the grammar school system and also the Education Secretary, Michael Gove. One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, also put in an appearance.

The meeting was addressed by Mr and Mrs Shillings - the Sevenoaks parents who successfully campaigned for the first new grammar school in fifty years. Conservative-run Kent County Council approved the new school after the Shillings collected 2,620 signatures to a petition. Mr Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, hopes for more grammar school expansion by the time of the group's fifth gathering.

20 Apr 2012 06:33:09

Who are the 301? The Tory MPs who want to refresh the 1922 Committee

By Matthew Barrett
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The 301 group is perhaps the most active and important group of backbench Tory MPs. Tim Montgomerie reported last week that three MPs - Charlie Elphicke, George Hollingbery and Priti Patel - want to organise a candidate to be elected to the 1922 Committee's executive who will give the '22 a focus on policy and campaigning. The Spectator's James Forsyth blogged that "The vote for their candidate, and his opponent, will give us the best idea yet of where the backbenches are at the moment politically. Indeed, I expect that the machinery of the 301 group, the most pro-Cameron of all the backbench groups, will be thrown behind the Elphicke-Hollingbery-Patel slate."

To organise or endorse candidates for the '22 is certainly the most power a backbench group has yet wielded in this Parliament. In this profile, I'll be looking at the origins, members, aims and plans of the group to get a sense of what the group wants to campaign for.

Origins of the group

HopkinsLeeThe 301 was first organised by Kris Hopkins (Keighley), a former soldier and leader of Bradford Council, and Jessica Lee (Erewash), a former barrister, and now Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. The group began with small meetings of a handful of MPs who were "concerned that the narrative in Parliament was not representative of the conversation" that MPs had had with the electorate while campaigning during the 2010 general election, and also dissatisfied with the fact that the mechanisms of debate amongst backbenchers, and between the back and front benches, were not conducive to trying to correct that narrative. Each of those attending brought a friend, and so on, until after three meetings the group reached 60 members.

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17 Apr 2012 14:46:17

Gove will "extend the role of the Church in the provision of schools" - and highlights from Education Questions

By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday in Parliament - the first time the House has sat for a few weeks - Michael Gove answered Education Questions. These are probably the most enjoyable questions session in Parliament at the moment - as one would expect, given the wit Mr Gove brings to the Chamber. The first question of note concerned the serious business of the role of the Church of England in academy schools:

Baldry TonyTony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to read the report, chaired by Priscilla Chadwick, on the future of Church of England schools? Does he agree that the recent changes in education introduced by the Government provide opportunities for the continuing involvement of the Church of England in education, particularly in delivering distinctive and inclusive new academies?

Michael Gove: I absolutely agree. Education on both sides of the border was driven in the first instance by the vigorous missionary activity of Churches, and we praise and cherish the role of the Church of England in making sure that children have an outstanding and inclusive education. I welcome the report, and I look forward to working with Bishop John Pritchard to extend the role of the Church in the provision of schools.

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3 Apr 2012 08:02:14

What is the 2020 group? Matthew Barrett profiles the Tory MPs trying to renew the Cameron project

By Matthew Barrett
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Of the Parliamentary groupings founded by MPs after the 2010 general election, the 2020 group is perhaps the least understood. Channel 4's Michael Crick and the FT (£) covered its launch during conference last year. Those two reports implied the 2020 group was a centre-left grouping pre-occupied with "countering the rise of the right". The 2020 is not about bashing the right. It's about upholding the ideas and optimism of the Cameron leadership era, and ensuring they can help inspire a majority Conservative government. In this profile, I will take a closer look at the 2020, its aims, role, and plans for the future.

Origins of the Group:


The 2020 was founded in Autumn 2011 by Greg Barker, the Minister of State for Climate Change, Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-upon-Avon), and George Freeman (Mid Norfolk), with Claire Perry (Devizes) joining soon after. It was launched at conference last year.

Members of the group (see below) are drawn from across the ideological spectrum (one member told me the 2020 tries to "reject the stale orthodoxies and dogmas of the old left versus right split in the Tory Party"), but members are united in wanting to develop conservatism and what the Party might look like in 2020. Founder George Freeman said: "The 2020 was set up as a forum to help the new Conservative generation define a modern progressive Conservatism for our times. What is the DNA that unites this diverse new generation? What are the long term social, economic, and technological changes that will shape our world? By tackling these and related questions we hope to help Conservatives define and dominate the radical centre ground of British politics."

Fellow founder Greg Barker explained another aspect of 2020's mission: "There's a strong strain of optimism that ran through the early Cameron message, and that message of change, hope and optimism, sometimes because of austerity, gets overshadowed, and we see ourselves as the guardians of that message".

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28 Feb 2012 08:24:51

Bercow corrects Michael Gove's "Cymryphobia" as "welshed" joins the list of unparliamentary language

By Tim Montgomerie
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Not for the first time the Speaker, John Bercow, didn't miss an opportunity, yesterday, to rebuke the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

Answering a question from Labour MP Tristram Hunt, Mr Gove said:

"The hon. Gentleman invited me to the potteries and I welshed on the deal. I would love to come to Stoke, because I am a huge fan of that city and its contribution to our industrial heritage, and of the way in which he has championed its role as a model both of how we can improve education and of urban regeneration."

Mr Bercow jumped to his feet to protect the feelings of the Welsh: "I think that the Secretary of State meant “reneged”," said the Speaker, "rather than “welshed”."

According to 'The Free Dictionary' "welshed" means "to swindle a person by not paying a debt or wager." or "to fail to fulfill an obligation". Apparently some of the great people of Wales are offended by this term - often written "welched" (as I did on Twitter, on Sunday).

Later in Education Questions Mr Gove thanks John Bercow for the correction:

"May I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for correcting my vocab earlier? I would hate to be thought guilty of Cymryphobia, especially as someone married to a Welsh girl."

"We are very grateful to the Secretary of State for that," replied Mr Speaker, "for his knowledge and, indeed, for his pronunciation."

Glad we sorted that out.

22 Nov 2011 14:01:32

Michael Gove, our mutual friend

By Joseph Willits 
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Gove_michael_nw_2Perhaps because the time for reading his Christmas Carol is approaching, yesterday's education Topical Questions was full of references to Charles Dickens. Gavin Barwell MP (Croydon Central) began by asking for more. He congratulated Michael Gove's pledge of £8million for additional school places in Croydon, but asked whether "there will be further such tranches of money in future" due to an increase of 10% in the number of children in reception classes.

Barwell had, Gove replied, "Great Expectations" about what I can get out of the Chancellor", prompting shouts of "Hard Times" from the rest of the House. The Education Secretary continued:

"Well, really it is a “Tale of Two Cities”: the City of London under Labour, under-regulated and, sadly, not paying the taxes that it should have; and the City of London under the Conservatives—at last getting the resources into the Exchequer".

Edward Leigh MP (Gainsborough), highlighted the fact that "many members of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, owe their start in life to private education". Leigh asked whether the Government would look to Europe where there are "many more bridges between private and state education ... for instance, the state paying the salaries of teachers in private schools", and not rule out "imaginative ways of helping ordinary people to access private education".

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