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Michael Gove teases the Education Secretary as he denounces the Queen's Speech as "pure Balls"

Michael Gove happy Today the Queen's Speech debate has seen education being debated, with Michael Gove and Ed Balls squaring up to each other at the despatch box.

I think it's fair to say there is no love lost between the pair, and Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove opened his speech this afternoon with typically combative rhetoric:

It is always a pleasure to follow the Secretary of State in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, not least because the Gracious Speech had his fingerprints all over it. It was, in every sense of the word, pure Balls. Before the Gracious Speech was delivered, we were told by one Cabinet Minister that it would be the most political Queen’s Speech for 12 years. Instead of that statement being a shamefaced confession, it was actually a boast. The Cabinet Minister concerned appeared to think that there was a virtue in using the Government’s entire legislative programme for narrowly partisan purposes.

Whoever that anonymous briefer might be, he certainly will not come in for any criticism from the Secretary of State. After all, the right hon. Gentleman was the man who told the New Statesman that his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), was absolutely wrong to pursue consensus over schools policy. What we needed, the Secretary of State said, was “to get back to a clear dividing line between us and the Conservatives on education policy.”

Note his priority: in the very first interview he gave on education, his priority was not raising pupil attainment, extending parental choice, freeing teachers from bureaucracy, improving discipline, enhancing literacy or closing the widening gap between the richest and the poorest. No, his priorities were not our priorities. His priority was simple: creating dividing lines—putting political positioning over principle, with partisan politics instead of national renewal.

Where there was harmony, the Secretary of State promised to bring discord. That is one promise he has certainly fulfilled. As my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) pointed out earlier when discussing subatomic particles, we all know that atoms, whether fluoride or otherwise, are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. The way to transform an atom into an ion is by adding or taking away an electron. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the type of ion the Secretary of State is probably responsible for producing is one that is relentlessly negative. However, one of the problems with the right hon. Gentleman is that if subatomic particles are handled insensitively they can sometimes create nuclear explosions.

Talking of nuclear explosions brings me to relations between the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. One thing has not changed in the last 12 years. The Secretary of State still thinks he is running the Treasury. He will not rest until he is in No. 11. For him, “Move Over, Darling” is not a film starring Doris Day, it is an operation he has probably subcontracted to Damian McBride. 

He later added:

The truth is that after boasting about spending increases and retreating, then offering spending cuts and retreating, and then again boasting about spending increases and retreating, the Secretary of State has absolutely no credibility left on the issue. He is the Katie Price of public spending—the Jordan of this Government. All that he is interested in is being on the front pages, so he has massively inflated what he has to offer. The past few months have left him dangerously overexposed; that means that he is in desperate need of support before it all goes south, but given his record of loyalty, it is a very brave man who would get into bed with him.

Jonathan Isaby


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