By Tim Montgomerie
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For the second year the Education Secretary Michael Gove wins the highest honour in ConHome's end-of-year awards as voted for by Tory members;
- 36.1% voted for the Education Secretary – "for his continuing education reforms";
- 29.1% voted for IDS – "for his continuing welfare reforms";
- 8.9% for Theresa May – "for cutting immigration, reforming the police and steadiness in a tough job";
- 8.8% for Owen Paterson (already crowned the One To Watch by members) – "for being a fearless, full-spectrum Conservative";
- 8.3% for Eric Pickles – "for delivering budget control and reform across local government";
- 6.5% for John Hayes – "for standing up to the Liberal Democrats on wind farms";
- 2.2% for Francis Maude – "for cutting the costs and size of Whitehall".
The nominees were chosen just before Christmas. The Chancellor was not nominated.
I don't intend to rehearse all of Mr Gove's achievements this morning. 2012 was a year in which he continued to support greater independence of academies and he delivered more opportunities for parent and charity-run groups to start new schools and bring diversity to Britain's education system. It was also the year in which he reached agreement with Nick Clegg to reform the GCSE and accelerated efforts to slash costs at the Department for Education. His emphasis on science, maths and foreign languages puts him at the heart of this Coalition's efforts to help Britain compete in the global economic race. His commitment to faster, simpler adoption underlined his compassionate credentials – born from very personal experience.
Outside of his brief he will be remembered for clashing with Lord Leveson over press freedom and for arguing that leaving the EU was now a realistic option. Away from the public eye he will always try to find time to support the conservative movement – whether that's at private fundraising events or speaker meetings – even though this husband and father is also one of the busiest people in government.
Some now talk of Mr Gove as a future Tory leader and it's certainly true that he's the only leading minister who enjoys the full confidence of both the party's modernisers and traditionalists. Personally I'm not sure that he wants the top job or that the public shares the party grassroots' affection for him. He doesn't score highly in public opinion polls. A lot of people wonder if he's just a little bit too geeky. I also worry sometimes about an unnecessary confrontationalism with his critics – something that doesn't quite fit with the politeness he shows in all personal and private dealings.
Regardless of what might lie ahead for the Education Secretary he's deservedly Conservative Minister of 2012.