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Michael Gove said he would never stand for the Tory leadership. But Iain Martin wrote, in 2012: "Perhaps he will be able to overcome his fear . . . Those who care about the future of this country should hope so: the Tories need their Iron Laddie and so do we."


Illustration by Michael Daley 

In The Iron Lady there is a moment when Margaret Thatcher (as played by Meryl Streep) decides that she is going to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party. If none of her colleagues has the gumption to do what needs doing, then she will do it. 

Can Michael Gove ever imagine himself making such a decision? Will he run at some point?

"No, I'm constitutionally incapable of it. There's a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don't have it. There's an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it's better not to try."

It looks as though the Iron Laddie is not for turning. His growing band of supporters will have to apply a lot of pressure when the moment comes. 

A little over a year ago it would have seemed rather outlandish, or at least very premature, to ask the Education Secretary questions about his leadership prospects. He didn't have any. Then, he was one of the coalition's earliest casualties and his friends feared for his future. An opening bombardment by the pugilistic Ed Balls, Labour's shadow education spokesman immediately after the 2010 general election, had done Gove considerable damage. His department (which under Labour had sprawled to cover children, schools and families until Gove restored its title and focus on education) was notoriously nightmarish to manage. Many Department for Education (DfE) officials are not naturally sympathetic to his worldview and some were alleged to have exposed him to ridicule.

Gove compares it, tongue in cheek, to being first ashore on D-Day. He cites his famous fellow-Scot Lord Lovat and his piper on June 6, 1944:

"Ed Balls had rigged the explosive devices on the beach. So he knew that the moment we arrived there were certain things that were going to explode. He had ramped up spending in some areas that we were going to have to pull back on, and he knew that when we did there would be a media storm."

But Gove, with difficulty, withstood the heavy fire coming from Labour. "If you're first ashore, you're also first up onto the cliffs and then out into open country."

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July 3rd, 2016
2:07 PM
Gove cites the example of competition in airlines: "When I was explaining to Steve Hilton that I was going off to the States, he said: ‘What are you flying? Don't fly British Airways, they are the fat cats. Fly Branson, he is the upstart. We are on the side of the upstarts.' So I'll be flying Virgin." I assume that's a one off? As the upstart Branson went on to become very Remain and even suggested the validity of the referendum could be questioned, even ignored. And so much for advice from Hilton, he was very pro-Brexit so opposed to the upstart and not on his side!

March 10th, 2012
7:03 PM
"...a man who thinks too much. Such men are dangerous."???!! And this coming from a teacher of all people? btw, the Building Schools for the Future programme was a nonsense. Labour designed it but they knew all along that there simply wasn't the money to pay for it.

Despairing teaching
February 25th, 2012
10:02 AM
“The Minister [of State for Education], in the short time that he has been at his post, has won the affection and respect of noble Lords on all sides of the House. He is a good listener, which makes it all the more difficult to direct the kind of fire and brimstone that this legislation [Education Bill] evokes against his person. He is an honourable man but behind him lurks a lean and hungry man who thinks too much. Such men are dangerous. We are on the verge of implementing measures that will change the educational landscape of our country for generations, and in a radical way…” “The money to pay for the various provisions described in this Bill, as I understand it, has been snatched from a number of pockets and there are serious consequences to expect from all of them. First, there was the abandonment of the Building Schools for the Future programme which, I remind your Lordships, was intended to renew or rebuild every secondary school in the land. .. Now the BSF programme, intended to reverse these depredations, has been brought to an abrupt end and the money wrung from the wreckage has been poured into the measures before us.” “Secondly, local authorities are being asset-stripped to finance the freedoms of the new academies. I fear that we will one day rue this emasculation of local and accountable government …” Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, June 2011 We can't say we haven't been warned.

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