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Tuesday 23rd October 2012 | 13:44
Michael Gove has become something of a talisman to the PM of late. It was Gove who was chosen to bat for the Govt when Mitchell quit. It's Gove who goes on Christmas walks with the Camerons. It's Gove whose kids were at the same school as Daves..
Party conference loved his speech in Birmingham, he's in the Radio Times, his star is truly rising.
Today, echoing Blair, the Education Secretary has stepped up the pace with an attack on the 'forces of Conservatism'.
And who are these conservatives?
Well, Ed Miliband for one. In the most vigorous attempt at a political character assassination for some time, Gove rounds on Miliband the 'intellectual'.
You can read the full Politeia speech HERE* (he must be the only Cabinet minister with the nerve to cite Wittgenstein, Popper, Hayek and Berlin).
This gives you the flavour of the attack on the Labour leader:
"For some reason, as Ed talked of Haverstock I was reminded of William Woodruff's memoir of growing up in Thirties Lancashire – the Road to Nab End – quoted incidentally in Jack Straw’s recent autobiography – where Woodruff talks of the "intellectual socialists" he met at university – people who "collected working-class experiences as others might collect stamps or butterflies."'
But a true radical - and that's how Gove is perceived by colleagues - takes on all comers. And Gove has similar disdain for...wait for it...the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee. The PAC and Margaret Hodge do irritate the PM (which they would say is their job, I guess). However, attacking the NAO is another kettle of fish entirely. Here's Gove:
"Far too often the Whitehall machine is risk averse. Media commentary rarely allows early errors to be seen in context as experiments which will generate improvements. And the NAO and PAC, the most influential watchdogs in the country, are some of our fiercest forces of conservatism.
Time after time the NAO and PAC report in a way which treats any mistake in the implementation of any innovation as a scandalous waste of public money which prudent decision-making should have avoided. And yet at the same time it treats the faults of current provision as unalterable facts of nature – like the location of oceans and mountains – which should be accepted as the design of a benign Providence..."
Is he really saying that being criticised by the NAO for wasting public money is some kind of badge of honour? That certainly would be radical. Or as Sir Humphrey would say, 'very brave, minister'...
*FOOTNOTE: Gove praises Lord Adonis as one of his heroes (alongside Teddy Roosevelt) for his vision of academies. It's worth pointing out that while Adonis likes the fact that Gove is pushing on with this Blairite policy, the former Schools Minister told me recently that Gove's Free Schools were a mere 'marketing trick'.
In his House magazine interview, Adonis also said: “Michael… would like to be progressive but he also seems to me to want to be leader of the Conservative Party and is making the classic mistake, if I can give him some advice through your columns, of thinking that the way to do that is by pandering to the worst in your party.”
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