I believe that moving Michael Gove from Education was a mistake. So, evidently, does Matthew D’Ancona, the former Spectator Editor (and author of an expert guide to the Coalition to date, In It Together). Today, as Gove’s replacement, Nicky Morgan, lauds last week’s A-level results in the Sun on Sunday (£), D’Ancona swoops on her in his weekly Sunday Telegraph column. Here’s the key section:
“In the Commons last month, Morgan signalled continuity of intent, declaring herself “undimmed in my commitment to free schools”. Yet the dimmer switch does not seem to be fixed. When she wrote last week to her Labour opposite number, Tristram Hunt, that “academies are just one part of the picture”, she appeared, in a single clause, to strip a flagship policy of its colours. Gove wanted academies (and free schools) to dominate the picture, not just to be “part” of it.
This is not pedantry. It is the heart of the matter. An education secretary should always be civil – Gove’s politeness is legendary – but he or she must also be relentless. When it comes to the transformation of schools, radicalism cannot be a tactic: it must be permanent, immutable, unsettling.”
Elsewhere in his article, D’Ancona writes that “it is much too early to judge Morgan definitively”, but his piece spotlights the highwire that the new Education’s Secretary must tread. On the one hand, it was expressly briefed that her appointment meant change: her presentation would be different from Gove’s – less confrontational, or at least pedagogical. On the other, it was also briefed that it didn’t mean change – since the policy would be the same.
It is not impossible to reconcile these two aims, but is not at all easy, either. Gove has admirers at the Times, the Daily Mail (where his wife writes a column), the Spectator (which seems to have its eye on about Morgan) and elsewhere. D’Ancona’s column today is worth mulling both on its own merits and as a sign of the scrutiny that the new Education Secretary is under.