Michael Gove

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Michael Gove, politician and 'right-wing polemicist'.

Michael Andrew Gove (born 26 August 1967) is the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.[1]

From 2010 until July 2014, he was Education Secretary, implementing widespread market reforms to schools in England. [2] Prior to 2010, he was the shadow secretary of state for children schools and families and a close policy aide of David Cameron.

He was formerly a deputy editor of The Times, and latterly a columnist there. From June 2002 to January 2006 he was Chairman of the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange which has been influential on Conservative Party policy.

Contents

Biography

Gove was born in Edinburgh on 26 August 1967, the son of of Ernest and Christine Gove. [3] According to this official biography, his father ran a fish-processing business and his mother was a lab assistant at Aberdeen University before working at Aberdeen School for the Deaf. [4]

Gove attended Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford where he was awarded a BA in English in 1988. He worked as a reporter for the Aberdeen Press and Journal in 1989 and then a researcher and reporter for Scottish Television from 1990 to 1991. From 1991 to 1995 he worked as a reporter for BBC News and Current Affairs, [5] working on the Today programme and On The Record. [6] During his time he wrote his first book Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right. He joined The Times in 1996. [7] On his official website he states that he has 'used his position as a writer for The Times and a broadcaster on the BBC to fight for greater personal freedom, a tougher line on crime, a more dynamic economy, a cleaner environment, stronger defence and a better deal for hard-pressed families.' [8] In one notable article in February 2003 he described himself as a 'right-wing polemicist' and declared his love for Tony Blair. In the article, which was headed 'I can't fight my feelings any more: I love Tony', Gove wrote: 'Central to any current assessment of Mr Blair has to be the manner in which he is handling the Iraq crisis,' but also added that: Blair was 'brave, to introduce market pressures into higher education by pushing through university top-up fees in the teeth of opposition from his egalitarian Chancellor. He’s been correct in conceding, to the annoyance of his wife I’m sure, that the European Convention on Human Rights gets in the way of a sane asylum policy. In dealing with the firefighters, and their absurdly selfish strike, he’s been satisfactorily resolute. [9]

From June 2002 to January 2006 he was Chairman of the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange. In 2005 Gove was elected Conservative MP for Surrey Heath and was appointed Shadow Minister for Housing & Planning in David Cameron's shadow cabinet. He was Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families from 2007. [10] He was re-elected as MP for Surrey Heath at the general election held on 6 May 2010. On 12 May he became Schools Secretary in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition Government led by David Cameron.

Gove was moved to become Government Chief Whip in a reshuffle on 15 July 2014.[11] After the 2015 general election, he became Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.[1]

Gove is married to Sarah Vine, who is a leader writer at The Times. [12]

Leading education reform in the UK

Gove’s enthusiasm for the rapid expansion of the schools market and the private sector’s role in it was apparent from the outset. He set about completing what had very tentatively begun with Thatcher and continued under Blair. More than half of secondary schools in England are now independently run academies. Over 2,000 have been created under Gove. His ambition is for all schools to be freed from local authority control. There are now also eighty new academy free schools, closely modelled on US charter schools, with over a hundred more in the pipeline. (Free Schools are billed as giving unhappy parents and teachers the chance to create new schools. One of the top reasons, however, for people wanting to set up a free school, ‘to be honest’, says Rachel Wolf, the government’s former free school champion, is the freedom they have over teachers’ ‘pay, conditions and recruitment’). Free schools also provide a structure for profit-making state schools, something that Gove supports.

The messaging

Britain’s schools are failing our children. This is the message at the core of the UK reformers’ argument. It is one that has been used to justify education reform in this country for decades. ‘We are falling further and further behind other nations,‘ said Gove, citing international league tables that, he claimed, show an apparent and sometimes sharp decline in standards. The figures he cited, however, have been found to be flawed. The official Statistics Authority described them as uncertain, weak and problematic and reprimanded Gove for using them.

We have similarly been told that this crisis is the fault of a left-leaning education establishment made up of teaching unions, bureaucrats and local officials, described by Gove as the ‘enemies of promise’, or simply and popularly known among reformers as ‘the blob’ (a term first used by Reagan’s education secretary). Michael Gove has called teachers, critical of his reforms, ‘ultra-militant’ Marxists ‘hell bent on destroying our schools’. Gove promised to ‘put children first’, not the needs of these adults, echoing many in the US education reform lobby.

The solution presented, as in the US, is to free schools from bureaucratic control, and introduce market forces into education.

The support network

Gove has been helped by a tight-knit reform community in the UK made up of business-backed think tanks and third party lobby groups, peopled by well-connected insiders, very much like the education reform lobby in the US. These include:

Individuals

Lobby groups

Drawing on lessons from the US

Michael Gove has links to leading education reform lobbyists in the US, including:

  • Foundation for Excellence in Education: In 2013, Michael Gove, on one of his many trips to the US, delivered the keynote speech at the foundation’s annual conference. Topics discussed included ‘extreme choices through digital learning’ and ‘the art of communicating education reform’.
  • Gove is also friendly with US education reformer and head of Rupert Murdoch's budding edtech business, Amplify, Joel Klein. Gove sees Klein as ‘something of an educational superstar’. Klein returned the compliment, describing Gove as a ‘hero and a friend’. On one occasion in early 2011 Klein was Gove’s guest in Britain for three days. The trip was devoted to discussions on US education policy. Another of their meetings, accompanied by more than ten other people, occurred just before the announcement of Klein’s job with Murdoch in September 2010. One of those present was Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, board member of the Centre for Policy Studies and a vocal reform lobbyist, who with his fellow Spectator writer, free school champion Toby Young has doggedly stuck to the reformers' script.

Support for radical, technology-driven reform of education

When Michael Gove took the reins of England’s education system in May 2010 he expressed a non-interest in technology in schools. He was all about tradition and conservative values: heads were to get more powers over discipline; he wanted a return to blazers and ties, prefects and houses; primary school children were to be taught Latin; every school in the country was getting a new, King James Bible inscribed in gold ‘from the Secretary of State for Education’.

Despite Gove's stated indifference, even before it came to power the Conservative-led government had given a strong signal to the education technology industry that it was, in fact, interested in creating a market in schools technology. Eight months ahead of the 2010 election, the Conservatives announced their intention to scrap the agency that dealt with technology in schools. It would be the first to go in their cost-cutting ‘bonfire of the quangos’. The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, or Becta, was seen as overly controlling the market. After less than a fortnight in office, Gove began winding it down. Within a year it was gone. All of a sudden the market for selling technology to schools was opened up. The axing of Becta was an idea put forward by the Centre for Policy Studies just months before the Conservatives’ pre-election announcement.

Still, it took Gove until well into 2011 to publicly declare an interest in technology in schools. In a speech that was billed as ‘at odds with his 18 months in office’, he confessed to being ‘behind the curve’. His department, he said, was working up new policy on using technology in the classroom. Gove was at pains to dispel the impression that his reforms would take the country’s education system back to the 1950s. ‘[We are accused] of caring more about Tennyson than technology, Ibsen than iTunes, more about Kubla Khan than the Khan Academy,’ he said. ‘There was no tension’, he said. ‘Schools and teaching had not changed in 100 years. If we do not change this, we will betray a generation.’

One major policy change subsequently made by Gove, after a sustained campaign from a large coalition of technology firms, including Microsoft and Google, was to introduce computer science on to the curriculum from September 2014. (See Google: 'Google campaigns to get coding in schools and its launch of Chromebook' for more on the lobbying campaign). When asked by an US ed tech lobbyist about the embedding of technology in UK schools, Gove explained that '‘there is one thing that we absolutely can do, and that is make sure all our students develop better computational knowledge and have the chance to code.' Still on the subject of technology in schools, Gove added: 'The change is coming, it will be huge, but we can’t discern exactly what shape it will take.’[13]

Gove has also gone a lot further in endorsing technology to teach. He has praised the use of games and interactive software in classrooms. He championed online learning, and the use by charter schools of ‘ubiquitous, cheap digital technology’ to give pupils access to the best teachers (online). He hailed the unprecedented opportunities technology provided for testing pupils. ‘Technology can be integrated and embedded across the whole curriculum,’ he said, echoing many. But perhaps more importantly, in his address to the industry at a digital learning conference, Gove expressed a desire to see Britain tap into this market.

Perhaps most revealing, however, is Gove's support for the ideas in a book by two vocal advocates for technology in schools. Liberating Learning by John Chubb and Terry Moe of the US conservative Hoover Institution details how technology is being used to radically change education – and defeat teaching unions. ‘The world is in the early stages of a historic transformation in how students learn, teachers teach, and schools and school systems are organised’, they wrote in 2009. Liberating Learning describes how technology will deliver this transformation through: its ‘seeping-in’ to existing schools; virtual schooling; new education providers; data systems designed to monitor teacher performance; and its ‘slow but inexorable undermining of the political power of the teachers unions’. Michael Gove described it as an ‘excellent book’. 'A genuine engagement with the wondrous world of technological innovation will see children’s learning ‘liberated from the dead hand of the past,’ he said. 'We owe it to pupils across the country to take this issue seriously.'

Computer-based approaches to learning require far fewer teachers per student. In Liberating Learning, Chubb and Moe suggest half as many teachers will be needed, or even fewer than that.

Talking Edtech with Murdoch

In 2010, Rupert Murdoch bought an education software company for $360m. Murdoch’s vision for News Corp’s education division, branded Amplify, is to digitise first America’s, then the world’s, classrooms to ‘fundamentally change’ the way we think about delivering education. This is why. ‘We see a $500billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs,’ Murdoch told investors.

Rupert Murdoch counts the former Education Secretary as one of his most loyal supporters. While other Parliamentarians labelled Murdoch unfit to run a multinational company amid the phone-hacking scandal, Gove vehemently defended him. In his evidence to the Leveson inquiry, Gove described him as ‘one of the most impressive and significant figures of the last fifty years’. We should be applauding Murdoch, not criticising him, he said.

Gove has known Murdoch for many years and long enjoyed his financial support. Before turning to politics, he was a leader writer and home editor at the Murdoch-owned The Times. Gove’s wife, Sarah Vine, has also written for the paper for many years. When Gove became an MP in 2005, The Times topped up his Parliamentary salary for four years with a £60,000-a-year column. In 2013, the Education Secretary was also still registering income from a book deal for an undisclosed amount given to him a decade earlier by HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corp, for a historical biography he has yet to write.

According to Gove’s office ‘most’ of his meetings with the Murdochs ‘have been about education, which is his job’. And he has had many. Gove regularly dined with Murdoch and his executives. One event, for example, attended by Gove, Murdoch, Murdoch’s son James and his editors celebrated a speech Murdoch had just given at the Centre for Policy Studies. Echoing Microsoft's Bill Gates in the US, and many CEOs in the UK, Murdoch used his address to damn the British schools system. ‘There is no excuse for the way British children are being failed,’ he said. He added modestly that that was why so much of News Corp’s philanthropic giving was devoted to the cause of education, although he did not say who had benefited from his generosity. The speech called for a revolutionised education system in the UK.

In the spring of 2011, Murdoch and Gove had one of their breakfasts together in London. According to reports, on this occasion Murdoch flew on to address a conference of internet entrepreneurs at which he spoke in detail about News Corp’s digital education plans. Classrooms had not changed since Victorian times, he said. They were the ‘last holdout’ from the digital revolution. Just weeks later Gove delivered his first speech to teachers which called for technical innovation in the classroom. His chosen dinner partner that night was, once again, Rupert Murdoch.

Giving evidence to Leveson, Gove admitted to holding discussions with Murdoch and Klein, (as well as Pearson and Microsoft on how technology will ‘change the shape of education’.[14]

Neoconservatism and Islam

Neoconservatism

Gove has been described as an 'unabashed neoconservative' [15] Former Conservative MP and now Times columnist Matthew Parris writes: 'If you had to identify what you might call Michael’s abiding passion in politics, you would find it in a consistent, intelligent rage against what he would see as the unwitting appeasement of wicked and violent men by flabby, woolly-minded liberals.' [16]

Gove was advocating total war in the Middle East even before September 11th. On the day of the attacks The Times published an article by Gove on the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the piece - written before the news of the attacks - Gove wrote: 'The talks which the West demands that Israel continues to hold with the Palestinian Authority will only confer further legitimacy on a terrorist state. It is not just that Arafat's territory harbours terrorists. It is terrorist. Militarily, culturally, spiritually. Just as much as any totalitarian regime from our dark continent's 20th century.' He continued: 'the truth about "talks" is that they are the product of violence, not its solvent. Munich was a reward for terror. Indeed the more "successful" talks are, the greater the legitimation for further violence. Once Sudetenland fell, who stood up for Prague?' [17]

A week later Gove wrote that, ‘What the West is dealing with, once more, is an ideological challenge to our existence and values.’ He rejected the use of diplomacy and called for ‘total war’. He continued:

Where should our steel be directed? It cannot, I fear, be deployed with the speed for which emotion pleads. But the swath we must cut is clear. First, the military eradication of bin Laden's headquarters and training camps. Next, the assembly of a coalition against the threat from his most dangerous accomplice, Saddam Hussein, and his weapons of mass destruction… [18]

In December 2008, Gove described the invasion of Iraq as a 'proper British foreign policy success'. 'Next year, while the world goes into recession,' Gove wrote, 'Iraq is likely to enjoy 10% GDP growth. Alone in the Arab Middle East, it is now a fully functioning democracy with a free press, properly contested elections and an independent judiciary. The two facts, the economic and the political, are of course connected.' [19]

Celsius 7/7

Gove wrote a book on Islamism called Celsius 7/7, which was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2006. [20] Gove credited George Weidenfeld, a political commentator and the founder of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, as the inspiration for the book, writing: 'It was his idea that I should write a short work tackling head on much of the nonsense which had been spoken and written about terrorism in the last few years, and I am immensely grateful to him for that opportunity.' [21] In the book Gove argued that: 'there is a phenomenon called "Islamism", a totalitarian movement in the mould of fascism or communism, and which should be fought with the weapons of war'. [22]. The historian William Dalrymple said of the book: 'Gove is an ill-informed pundit tailoring information to fit pre-existing prejudices':

Gove is an example of the sort of pundit who has spoon-fed neocon mythologies to the British public for the past few years. Gove has never lived in the Middle East, indeed has barely set foot in a Muslim country. He has little knowledge of Islamic history, theology or culture — in Celsius 7/7, he just takes the line of Bernard Lewis on these matters; nor does he speak any Islamic language. None of this, however, has prevented his being billed, on his book’s dust-jacket, “one of Britain’s leading writers and thinkers on terrorism.

Gove's book is a confused epic of simplistic incomprehension, riddled with more factual errors and misconceptions than any other text I have come across in two decades of reviewing books on this subject. [23]

Gove credited a number of friends and colleagues who helped to shape his thinking in writing the book: 'I am particularly indebted to Dean Godson and Nicholas Boles of the think tank Policy Exchange, Dominic Cummings and James Frayne, formerly of the New Frontiers Foundation, Garvan Walshe and Glyn Gaskarth of the Conservative Research Department and the writers Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stephen Pollard, Oliver Kamm, William Shawcross and Douglas Murray.' [24]

Khurshid Ahmad

On 5 December 2005, Gove criticised Home Secretary Charles Clarke for employing advisors on extremism including Ahmad Thompson, Khurshid Ahmad and Mockbul Ali. He later apologised after it emerged he had confused Khurshid Ahmad with another individual of the same name.[25]

PMQs Blunder

In November 2009, Gove helped David Cameron to set up a question to the Prime Minister on Islamic extremism:

Seeing that two schools linked to Hizb ut Tahrir had received cash from the Early Years Pathfinder scheme which funds free nursery places, Mr Gove had mistakenly thought that it was part of the Preventing Violent Extremism pathfinder project that is supposed to tackle indoctrination. In fact the two schemes are entirely separate. The error meant that Mr Cameron was simply wrong to declare that the schools were receiving cash from an “anti-extremist” fund when he faced Mr Brown across the dispatch box.[26]

The Conservatives also claimed that the schools had not been registered or inspected by Ofsted:

In fact, one of the two schools – in Slough, Berkshire – had posted a glowing commendation from Ofsted on its website. The report was easily accessible by Googling the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation, and its veracity could be confirmed with Ofsted.[27]

According to the Independent, the blunder was said to have been "made by a researcher who put together a briefing paper ahead of Prime Minister's Questions":

But it also created deep embarrassment for Mr Gove, who is one of the Tory leader's most trusted advisers and confidants. He has been highlighting the case of the two schools for nearly a month; the rapid revelation of such a basic mistake leaves him with egg on his face.[28]

Ireland

The Price of Peace

In the Summer of 2000, Gove published a pamphlet on Northern Ireland, called The Price of Peace for the Centre for Policy Studies. According to Ed Vaizey's review, Gove argued that "the peace process has taken us down a dangerous and erroneous path":

The solution, in Gove's eyes, is to abandon the peace process and substitute for it a strategy of "resolute security action"; the ending of prisoner releases; the banning of any party still associated with the principle of violence from participation in the peace process. More broadly, he shows the dangers inherent in appeasement. It is one thing to seek peace, another to put into effect methods of government that one would not contemplate elsewhere in one's country. Peace may be achieved in the short term, but at the price of the long-term infection of the body politic.[29]

Dinner with lobbyists

The Black and White Ball 2015

On 9 February 2015, Gove attended the Conservative Party's 'Black and White Ball' election fundraiser at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. The event was attended by almost the entire Cabinet, Boris Johnson and George Osborne did not attend due to the G20 event, and by party donors including; hedge fund boss Stanley Fink (Lord Fink), who wants Britain to rival offshore tax havens with an equally generous tax regime; founder of Lycamobile, who paid no corporation tax between 2007 and 2014 despite generating millions in revenue, Subaskaran Allirajah; jewellery tycoon Ranbir Singh Suri and lap dancing club owner Peter Stringfellow.

One Tory donor told the Guardian he had been told if he bought a 'premium table at the event for £15,000 he would expect the company of a cabinet minister' and if 'he paid £5,000 for a standard table, he would expect a junior minister'.

To raise additional money at the event, the Party sold one off prizes. These included, dinner at home with Gove and his wife, shoe shopping with Theresa May, a meal at the Carlton Club with Sajid Javid and a session of jogging with Nicky Morgan.[30]

Donations

Gove received a donation to his constituency office from Annabel's nightclub, while it was owned by Mark Birley.[31]

Metals trader Alan Bekhor has also been a donor.[32]

On 2 June 2014 Gove declared in the MPs Register of Interests that he had been a guest of Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail newspaper, at his home in France the previous month.

Name of donor: Lord Rothermere
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation (or estimate of the probable value): travel, accommodation and subsistence to a value £2,134, for me and my wife as guests of Lord Rothermere.
Destination of visit: France
Date of visit: 3-4 May 2014
Purpose of visit: leisure (Registered 2 June 2014)

In August 2011 Gove received a donation of £2,000.00 from property investor Nick Leslau[33] and £3,000.00 from banker Jeremy Isaacs.[34]

Special advisers and aides

Affiliations

Publications

  • Michael Portillo: the future of the right, Fourth Estate, 1995
  • The Price of Peace, Centre for Policy Studies, 27 July 2000.
  • Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006.

External resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Election 2015: Prime Minister and ministerial appointments, 10 Downing Street, 8 May 2010, updated 10 May 2010.
  2. Her Majesty’s Government, Number10.gov.uk, accessed 12 May 2010.
  3. GOVE, Michael Andrew’, Who's Who 2010, A & C Black, 2010; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2009 ; online edn, Nov 2009 [Accessed 20 May 2010]
  4. PDF Copy of Michael Gove, About Michael <http://www.michaelgove.com/about> created 20 May 2010.
  5. Debrett's People of Today, The Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP [Accessed 20 May 2010]
  6. Newsnight Review, Michael Gove, 22 April 2009.
  7. Debrett's People of Today, The Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP [Accessed 20 May 2010]
  8. PDF Copy of Michael Gove, About Michael <http://www.michaelgove.com/about> created 20 May 2010.
  9. Michael Gove, 'I can't fight my feelings any more: I love Tony', The Times, 25 February 2003.
  10. Debrett's People of Today, The Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP [Accessed 20 May 2010]
  11. Ministerial appointments: July 2014, Prime Minister's Office, 15 July 2014.
  12. PDF Copy of Michael Gove, About Michael <http://www.michaelgove.com/about> created 20 May 2010.
  13. National Summit 2013: Dinner Keynote with Michael Gove MP, 23 October 2013
  14. Cave & Rowell, A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain, Bodley Head, 2013
  15. Andrew Porter, 'Michael Gove on why diplomas should be ditched and GCSEs made more difficult', The Telegraph, 7 November-2008, Accessed 29 March 2009.
  16. Matthew Parris 'Welcome to Cameron's Europe-hating and Pentagon-loving party' The Times Online, May 20, 2006.
  17. Michael Gove, 'The spirit of Munich is alive in the Middle East', The Times, 11 September 2001; p.14
  18. Michael Gove, 'This is war, and it will demand our steel', The Times, 18 Sepember 2001; p.18
  19. Michael Gove, Triumph of Freedom over Evil, Scotland on Sunday, 21 December 2008.
  20. Michael Gove, Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, p.iv.
  21. Michael Gove, Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, p.141.
  22. Andy McSmith, Michael Gove: The modest moderniser,The Independent, 27-September-2008, Accessed 29-March-2009
  23. William Dalrymple, A global crisis of understanding, The Times, 24 September-2009.
  24. Michael Gove, Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, p.142.
  25. Paul Waugh, When an 'extremist' is not an extremist, Evening Standard Blogs, 26 November 2009.
  26. Francis Elliot, Schools supremo Michael Gove learns painful lesson about getting the facts right, The Times, 27 November 2009.
  27. Richard Garner, Why Conservatives failed the test on Islamic schools, Independent, 27 November 2009.
  28. Nigel Morris, Nigel Morris: Flaky research lands Gove in hot water, Independent, 27 November 2009.
  29. Ed Vaizey, We Tories are uneasy, Guardian, 23 August 2000.
  30. Rajeev Syal and Rowena Mason Conservative donors pay up to £15,000 for table at election fundraiser The Guardian, 9 February 2015, accessed 11 February 2015
  31. Mystery over Michael Gove's cash resolved, The First Post, accessed 3 September 2009.
  32. Hotline - MPs Register of Interest, Euromoney, 4 July 2008.
  33. Electoral Commission, Donation Search, accessed 3 April 2015.
  34. Electoral Commission Search: Jeremy Isaacs, accessed 1 July 2015.
  35. NGO Monitor International Advisory Board Profiles, accessed 8 August 2010
  36. Nathalie Tamam, ‘Informed’ Weekly Briefing, Conservative Friends of Israel, 01-August-2008, Accessed 29-March-2009
  37. Sam Coates, Francis Elliott, Fran Yeoman and Helen Nugent, 'The new generation of Conservative candidates', The Times, 30 April 2009.
  38. PDF Copy of Michael Gove, About Michael <http://www.michaelgove.com/about> created 20 May 2010.
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