David Cameron has conducted the most wide-ranging reshuffle of his cabinet since taking office, appointing Philip Hammond as foreign secretary and firing Michael Gove as education secretary. Several women, including Nicky Morgan and Elizabeth Truss, have been appointed to the cabinet.
By John Aglionby and Claer Barrett
Ed Miliband used his conference speech a few weeks ago to try to steal the mantle of Benjamin Disraeli*, the 19th century Conservative prime minister. Or at least his “One Nation” phrase.
Michael Gove has made a speech at Politeia today where he praised the Miliband effort, calling it “beautifully-written and elegantly delivered” while hailing the Labour leader for being “gifted“, “thoughtful without being ponderous, serious without being humourless” and so on.
This, of course, was just a warm-up before the Tory education secretary laid into Miliband.
Irony of ironies, key to the Gove critique was the idea that the speech showed how Miliband was “in almost every sense of the word” conservative. Read more
Reading this morning’s papers, you would have known that Michael Gove’s proposals to scrap GCSEs and bring back two levels of qualification for 16-year-olds have sparked a row. But to a greater extent than any recent government, this row is not between the government and the opposition, it is within the government. The papers reported:
Michael Gove has ignited a furious coalition row with the Liberal Democrats… (FT)
Nick Clegg vows to block Michael Gove’s plan to ditch GCSEs (Guardian)
Nick Clegg erupted with fury and vowed to block Michael Gove’s proposals… (Daily Mail)
To an extent, this suits both coalition partners: Gove gets to posture in front of the Tory faithful, while the Lib Dems get to show their muscle when the eventual compromise is reached. Read more
Michael Gove featured heavily in today’s PMQs. Ed Miliband began his questions by asking whether the prime minister would condemn the education secretary’s recent comments that the Leveson inquiry was having a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech.
But it was during the inevitable debate on the health bill that Mr Gove played an unspoken, but important role.
Ministers seem to be changing their tone in a subtle way when defending the NHS reforms, taking on some of the tactics deployed by the education secretary when he was pushing through the Free Schools agenda.
Instead of talking up how radical the plan is, the government is now downplaying it. We hear that the bill is about “evolution, not revolution”, and more strikingly that it is building on what Labour did while they were in government.
It was this latter point that the prime minister stressed today, reeling off a list of former Labour health secretaries or advisers who back competition in the NHS (which is not the same as backing the bill, mind). He added: Read more
Every time Labour raises the issue of Andy Coulson during a debate on phone hacking, someone from the Tory benches (usually Graham Stuart, for some reason) gets up to ask about his press chief, Tom Baldwin, the former Times journalist.
Baldwin has been attacked by the prominent Tory funder Lord Ashcroft for an investigation he carried out into Ashcroft’s finances, and been accused of illegally accessing his bank details. Read more
Michael Gove told the Andrew Marr Show this morning that he wouldn’t comment on potential action by the government against the unions, saying he had no wish to “ratchet up the rhetoric” against the movement. Not least when negotiations are still going on.
That comment sits slightly uneasily against his letter to schools calling on them to keep schools open by using the “wider school community”, ie parents. Read more
Now here is a startling statistic uncovered by my colleague Chris Cook.
Free schools will receive almost twice as much state funding for taking a poor pupil rather than a child from a more well-off background. Read more
Has Michael Gove’s discreet approach to budget negotiations paid off? Education bravely resisted the shroud waving that marked the defence review. But it looks like Gove has emerged with a better deal than Fox, at least in terms of his resource budget.
We already know that schools spending — based on the Ed Balls baseline — will rise in real terms (albeit by a tiny amount). Today’s surprise will be that the education department will win the best settlement of all the unprotected departments. That means its resource budget will be cut by less than the 7.5 per cent imposed on defence. When it came to a stand-off between kids and frigates, the kids appear to have prevailed.
Now, as with all settlements announced today, the headline figure mask a great deal of pain. Spending channelled through local authorities (such as children’s services) will suffer. So will spending on 16 to 19 year olds. And of course the resource settlement does not include the education capital budget, which is about to be thumped. Read more
Michael Gove has not had a fun time recently. The education secretary has suffered a mauling by his shadow, Ed Balls, over his plans to stop rebuilding projects for over 700 schools. Gove made a grovelling apology to the Commons two weeks ago after being forced to release several versions of a list of affected schools after each one was found to contain errors.
This weekend, things got worse for Gove, with the Tory chair of the education select committee warning the BBC that his Academies Bill was being rushed through parliament.
Perhaps all this explains why the normally charming and unflappable Gove sounded so rattled on the Today programme this morning. When Sarah Montague asked Mr Gove about the consequences of the bill, he replied:
It’s very revealing of your mindset, Sarah, that you believe that local authorities are the only way to improve schools.
Even with David Baddiel at the helm, Channel 4′s distant programme “A Stab In The Dark” was notoriously unfunny. Witness the young Michael Gove – about six and a half minutes in – interviewing a pretend robber as a group of badly dressed youngsters try to laugh along. Words fail me.
hat-tip: New Statesman Read more
Now this is odd. Since George Osborne and his axemen entered the Treasury, far from cutting the school building programme, they’ve actually allowed it to swell.
Around £1.5bn of additional contracts have been signed since May, a billion of which came in the last 21 days. Given departments are facing average cuts of 25 per cent, you have to wonder what on earth is going on. Read more