‘Totally necessary’ for Gove’s team to rule by fear, says pressure group director Mark Lehain

Janet Downs's picture

It was ‘totally necessary’ for the ‘tight-knit team’ around former schools minister Michael Gove to use ‘fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency’ to push through Gove’s agenda, writes Mark Lehain, founder of Bedford Free School and now director of the Parents and Teachers for Excellence

The total necessity of ruling by fear is the excuse given by dictators, now and in the past, to justify the killing and imprisonment of dissidents, heretics and opponents.

It’s chilling, then, to read an article in Britian today justifying enforcing policies by fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency.

My parents, my grandfather and millions of others like them fought in two world wars – to ensure Britain would never be ruled by fear. 

Yet now at the end of 2017, in the period supposedly the time of peace and goodwill, we have the director of a pressure group saying it was totally necessary to use a kind of blitzkrieg to push through the will of the ‘Pope’, Lehain’s nickname for Gove.

In 2011, Gove was asked if he was a Stalinist.   If we didn’t already know the answer, we do now. 

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agov's picture
Sat, 16/12/2017 - 17:02

"Parents and Teachers for Excellence"

That would be that "Strictly non-partisan", but apparently so severely ideologically of the hard right, group that seems to be so keen on slogans and yet so economical in the provision of the evidential basis of their claims as well, as far I as discovered, of the financing of their little faction.

"My parents, my grandfather and millions of others like them fought in two world wars – to ensure Britain would never be ruled by fear."

I honour the memory and conduct of all those involved including from my own family. Doesn't seem to inhibit those happy for Britain to be ruled by Project Fear though.
Historically however, WW1 had nothing to do with Britain being ruled by fear but rather that Germany might have ruled the continent for the benefit of German interests and therefore be a rival, and therefore threat, to British interests. WW2 was not all that much different except it was more global and genocide became a factor if only as a motivator. Britain could have opted out in 1940 or 1941 (as Hitler and much of the Labour and Tory parties wished) and, quite probably, been left alone. And now we have most of the continent, along with much of the British misruling class, happy and eager to support the historic aims of Germany.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/12/2017 - 13:42

agov - your assessment of history may, or may not, be right.  But my parents and my granddad thought they were fighting dictatorship and to keep Britian free.   I'm not sure that people affected by the blitz in 1940 would have been happy for the Government to make friends with Hitler.   And Adolf might have changed his mind in any case - look what happened to his pact with Soviet Russia.

It's not possible to compare the risible Project Fear with the very real fear of living under a dictatorship.   Project Fear and the leave campaign were marred by false claims, warnings and misinformation as I wrote at the time.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/12/2017 - 14:03

agov - one of the claims made by leavers was that employment rights could be eroded if we left the EU.  Was this Project Fear or prescience?  It appears that the deadly duo will make the case for scrapping the Working Time Directive today according to the Times.

The TUC has started a petition to May asking her to make it clear UK workers will retain their working rights after Brexit.  It's here.

agov's picture
Mon, 18/12/2017 - 15:50

People were fighting against dictatorship and to keep Britain free but only as a consequence of a choice made by the British government. There were frequent opportunities to make peace. In fact, the continuing British participation in the war, prior to American involvement, is often attributed almost solely to the determination of Churchill often in the face of huge opposition. Churchill was subjected to rather robust views from people in the East End after one German bombing raid.
Hitler did not change his mind about the USSR. He merely conned Stalin (who ignored what he was being told by British Intelligence and a well-placed Soviet agent in Germany) to avoid a two-front war while he dealt with France and then he launched the invasion, that was always going to happen, to secure that Lebensraum he was so keen on.
Project Fear is (amongst other things) a means to facilitate German dominance of Europe, which was what WW1 and 2 were really about.
It is true that both sides during the Referendum told a few whoppers. However, as a sovereign nation it would be for Britain to determine many laws that are currently affected or an exclusive competence of the EU. That would be why the Labour Left (when there was a proper Labour and a legitimate Left) has traditionally been opposed to the EU as it prevents as well as imposes things on governments of member states. In a previous post I linked to an explanation of why, under EU law, it would be impossible for Britain to enact certain improved fire regulations (highly relevant to Grenfell, for example) as such variation is not allowed as part of the single market stuff.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 20/12/2017 - 09:18

agov - we've strayed a long way from the original point - that a minister condoned rule by fear by his 'fanatical' team in order to push through his ideas.  This is unacceptable.   And it's concerning that this approach is praised by someone involved in education of all things.  

However, I'll leave you with this:

'Project Fear was right in principle but their tone was so over the top, it backfired and undermined their own credibility.  My impression from market research was that a gentle focus would have been more effective.'

These words weren't spoken by a Remainer but a prominent Leaver - Dominic Cummings.   I agree with him - Project Fear was sound but over-egged to an extent it became a joke.  And Obama's 'back of the queue' comment did Remainers no favours.

This quote is in Harry Mount's book Summer Madness.   If you can't stomach Laws' book - try this.


agov's picture
Wed, 20/12/2017 - 11:07

Sorry, looked at the rave reviews on Amazon but the book doesn't seem to say anything much that isn't already well known - it's like it was written by a journalist...oh, it was.
Not entirely sure how many people would view Cummings as a fount of campaign wisdom. Some would say he was almost single-handedly responsible for almost losing a victory that should never have been in doubt.

Brian Lightman's picture
Sun, 17/12/2017 - 17:21

This quote is taken directly from Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch. I think that says it all!

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/12/2017 - 13:52

Thanks, Brian.  I've found the link to the sketch - it's here.  

Matthew Bennett's picture
Tue, 19/12/2017 - 14:11

For comparison -- Dominic Cummings reflecting on the achievements of the 'tight-knit team'.

The reason why Gove’s team got much more done than ANY insider thought was possible – including Cameron and the Perm Sec – was because we bent or broke the rules and focused very hard on a) replacing rubbish officials and bringing in people from outside and b) project management.

'Project management' presumably covers lying, bullying, and 'rule by fear'.



Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 20/12/2017 - 08:56

Thanks Matthew.  As you say, 'project management' presumably covers breaking the 'rules' to accomplish what the 'tight-knit team' surrounding the leader wants.  'Replacing rubbish officials' means getting rid of anyone who isn't a Yes man (or woman) and 'bringing in people from outside' means importing people who can be relied upon to support the leader.  In Gove's case this was often Tory donors such as Agnew and Nash (both fast-tracked to a Lordship to sit in the Lords as Education Ministers) and  heads who could be relied upon to gush over Gove's policies.  It shows Gove's lack of judgement that many of these have since faced ignomy or been slapped with financial notices to improve: Sir Greg Martin, Liam Nolan, Sir Peter Birkett, Patricia Sowter CBE and Sajid Hussain Raza (in prison for fraud).


Matthew Bennett's picture
Wed, 20/12/2017 - 13:51

People from outside:  Nash, Agnew, Tom Attwood (private equity bosses); Paul Marshall (hedge fund manager); Jim O'Neill (Goldman Sachs); Anthony Salz (Rothschild).  And so on.

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