Conservative Diary

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Gove cuts bureaucracy and bureaucracy undermines Gove

Michael Gove has endured a difficult few days. He apologised yesterday evening to the Commons for publishing a list of changes to the school rebuildings programme that contained a number of inaccuracies. As Jonathan blogged this morning, the manner of the full apology was typical of the Education Secretary and contrasted markedly with the failure of Labour ministers to ever apologise.

I'm sure Michael Gove will be learning lessons from his experience but I offer just one observation in his defence. It's a simple but stubbon fact. The inaccurate list of school rebuildings was compiled by the Partnership for Schools quango. The quango that has presided over Ed Balls' school buildings programme and all of its cost over-runs and building design problems. I don't necessarily accuse it of conspiracy in providing Mr Gove with an inaccurate list but I do accuse it of incompetence. The episode is actually a small vindication for Mr Gove in his determination to slim down PfP.

Conservatives need to brace themselves for a lot more of this (and the BBC needs to calm down in its reporting). The fat state bureaucracy isn't going to like 10%, 25% and 33% cuts. It won't make life easy for Secretaries of State who have to wield the axe. Liam Fox, for example, is under fierce attack from within the MoD because he wants to axe pen-pushers and protect frontline troops. This self-preserving, bureaucratic revolt is another reason why ministers would be more effective in their jobs if they had more political advisers working alongside them.

Michael Gove's schools reforms - particularly his determination to put good teaching ahead of physical fabric - are hated by the education establishment (the same establishment of local authorities and unions that have, for forty years, protected incompetent teachers from the sack). He deserves our support in his difficult but vital mission.

Tim Montgomerie

8.15pm: Iain Martin is now on PfS's case too.

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