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By Paul Goodman
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Hansard records the exchange as follows:

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): Today is the 80th birthday of the Oxford Professor of Poetry, Professor Sir Geoffrey Hill, our greatest living poet. I am sure that the whole House would like to join me in wishing him a very happy birthday, and thanking him for the fantastic work that he has done.

Sir Geoffrey was knighted in the new year honours. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) was knighted in the recent Queen’s birthday honours, and I am sure that the whole House will also want to join me in congratulating him on his well-deserved elevation.

Sir Tony Baldry: I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his kind comments. Is he aware of the work being done by the Oxford diocesan board of education in setting up a unit to give full support to Church of England primary schools that wish to become academies, and does he share my hope that other diocesan boards of education will do likewise?


Purists will say that Mr Gove was taking a view of his responsibilities that was both narrow and wide, but I believe that we should make the most of the Education Secretary while we have him.

Wide, narrow, both or neither, he was certainly right about Sir Geoffrey (ambushing Sir Tony – congratulations again – in the process).  He is indeed our finest living poet.

Nick Pearce of the IPPR has a good short piece on Sir Geoffrey here.  And below is a film in which the Professor of Poetry declares his imperishable admiration for Ken Dodd.

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