‘Cry God for Michael, Britain and Saint Gove!’

Janet Downs's picture

In just 272 words, Shakespeare’s Henry V persuaded his warriors to charge the breach in a European wall.   But it takes Michael Gove 5000 words to convince us why he’s the man to take us out of it.

One thing is certain: when Gove makes a speech – it’s not likely to be short.  And it will be filled with familiar features: emotional appeals; clarion calls for change; flattery concealing hidden barbs.  He launches a lengthy explanation why he, the reluctant leader, would nevertheless become prime minister if called upon to do so:

I did not want it, indeed I did almost everything not [to] be a candidate…I was so very reluctant…

Gove has said this so many times, methinks he doth protest too much.  And back in February 2013, Nick Cohen, wrote in the Guardian:

I hear that an alarmed David Cameron can see that Gove is preparing a leadership bid…

Cohen was describing Gove’s Department of Education ‘attack dogs’.  Was Cohen exaggerating?   Not according to David Laws, former schools minister, who describes the DfE under Gove as a maverick department, out-of-control, ruled by a man who wanted his own way.

Gove’s speech, full of rhetorical devices (patterns of three, repetition, high-sounding phrases), explains why he is the man to lead Britain out of the EU:

‘I’m the candidate for leader who changed our education system.’

He did indeed.  Using a mixture of misleading information, sneering at opposition and cherry picking ‘evidence’, he rammed through education reforms at breakneck speed.   English education is now dealing with the wreckage: the promised freedom is proving elusive to academies in chains; the exam system is in a mess having been introduced irresponsibly without trialling or evaluation; teacher training (unnecessary, in any case, according to Gove) is in disarray; and school place supply hasn’t kept pace with need.

Gove makes several promises.  These include:

1         Spending £100m a week on the NHS (but wasn’t that supposed to be £350m divided between the NHS and other public services?).    

2         Further reform in ‘our education system’ (it’s unclear how he will manage British-wide education reform – the UK PM has no control of education policy outside England). 

3         Changing a system where the ‘wealthiest’ exploit the tax system to avoid paying taxes.  (That’s something which would be worth changing.  But, as Private Eye asked on 10 June: did Gove think of this while he was holidaying in premises owned by his friend Viscount Rothermere, whose ownership of the Daily Mail is via a Bermuda-registered company and who also uses offshore firms for UK properties?).

He claims he has the qualities to lead Britain out of Europe.  But Gove has proved himself to be divisive, unwilling to compromise and now, it would appear, treacherous.  His tendency to call those who disagree with him ‘Marxists’, ‘Enemies of promises’ and ‘Nazis’ does not suggest a man who can build bridges despite the emollient tone of his carefully-crafted speech.

Yesterday, someone suggested Michael Gove was having a Henry V moment*.  A cynic might say it was more like Richard III.


*I can’t find this reference.  If anyone can provide a link in comments below, I’d be grateful.

 ADDENDUM:  4 July 09.15.  Although I described  the three items above as promises, only one, giving an extra £100m per week to the NHS, was actually a promise.  The other two were what Gove said needed to be done, not what he would do.  His speech is full of what he thinks needs to be done but he's actually committed himself to just four things: taking the UK out of the EU (who would have thought it?, an extra £100m per week for the NHS, ending free movement by introducing an Australian-style points system and cutting VAT on domestic fuel.



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jane's picture
Sat, 02/07/2016 - 13:51

It could come from the caption under a picture in this article: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/henry-viiis-life-ruined-michael-671...
"Hatchet man: Gove axed Tudors like Henry axed wives "

trevor fisher's picture
Sat, 02/07/2016 - 17:14

Focussing on Gove is not the big issue, he is already damaged goods within the Tory Party. One MP wants to cut his penis off and has said so = according to the newspapers.

Look at the comment you already quoted in your quiz from Dominic Cummings, PA to Gove, who Cameron had sacked while keeping the viper in place. Indeed, can we have it again please and the source.

Then look what Cummings role was in the Referendum

There are wheels within wheels.

Trevor FIsher.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/07/2016 - 08:25

Trevor - the link to the LSN Midsummer Quiz 2016 is here.    The quote by Dominic Cummings featured in the quiz was in David Laws' book, Coalition, page 421.  I cannot give a direct link as the whole book isn't online.   I recommend its purchase, however.  It gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the DfE under Gove.   Laws claims (page 425), for example, that he met Dominic Cummings in the lift after a fractious meeting where Cummings, who was about to leave the DfE,  had suggested stopping 'stupid initiatives from No 10 and from Clegg'.   As Laws was leaving the lift he claims he heard Cummings mutter, 'If people in the Deputy Prime Minister's Office think I've "gone rogue", they ain't seen nothing yet.'  Laws says Cummings was 'as good as his word.  Outside the department, he used his position to stir the pot even more violently.'  

Of course, this is only hearsay, and might not be wholly accurate.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/07/2016 - 08:39

Trevor - it would be wrong to dismiss Gove.  The Times editorial yesterday described Gove as a 'strong candidate' and added, 'the justice secretary's credentials as a reformer and referendum winner are hard to beat.  It would be a loss to the vital debate now under way on Britian's future if he were eliminated early'.  The editorial writer continued: Gove's speech launching his bid was 'stirring' and 'the most important of his political career so far'.  In making the speech, Gove 'seized' the opportunity to distance hmself from charges of 'political treachery' and move the focus to 'his own reform agenda'.

Although not all articles in the Times were as supportive, the day before the paper, owned by Gove's friend Rupert Murdoch, said, 'Knife-wielding Gove deserves the Tory crown.'


trevor fisher's picture
Mon, 04/07/2016 - 04:31

I have no desire to dismiss Gove, and am surprised that anyone should think so. The character of the man is very much like that of Prince Rupert, who at the battle of Naseby charged the parliamentary troops at high speed and wiped them off the battlefield. His charge ended four miles away. By the time he had regrouped and got his cavalry back to the battle, Cromwell had destroyed what remained of the ROyalist infantry. End of the Royalist participation in the Civil War under Charles 1

Its useful to have the Laws material, and we would be wise to look at the Feb 6th statement by Laws and Morgan on education as a case of the collusion of the Lib Dems and the Tories... which led to Laws losing his seat. A result which needs to be kept in mind when contemplating the machinations of the hard right in the Tory party over their leadership. Jump in bed with them, get a nasty outcome

I would be very interested in having the ref to Laws accusation in the Evening Standard that schools were producing failure 'on an industrial scale' Its been the Claim of the right since the Black Papers. Reality is that the system produces too many successful people and needs to be reduced.


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 04/07/2016 - 09:10

The link to Law's comments reported by the Evening Standard in October 2011 is here.    He was not in Government at the time having resigned as Chief Secretary of the Treasure after just 17 days in the post following an expenses scandal.  However, in September 2012 he returned as schools minister.  A cynic might say the Evening Standard article was a way of getting on the right side of Michael Gove.   In his article, Laws said 90% of pupils should achieve 5 'decent' GCSEs (ie 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English).   It didn't seem to occur to him that if 90% achieved at least a grade C, which in the early days of GCSE was regarded as a sign of above-average achievement, then it would truly be dumbing down. 

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