So let me make it clear that I am not a fan of Gove. I want it made clear from the offset that I find his policy agenda to be tub after tub of Potted Wank. I find his ideology to be backwards and Little-Britainy. I find his face unnerving, and he brings out the shivers of Govephobia in me that Frank Furedi has described.
But it must be noted that as politicians go - in terms of the 'dark arts' of rhetoric, debate, performance and impression management - Michael Gove is an absolute force of nature. His limp 'bullied-kid-in-the-cupboard' image and his polite well-spoken dealings combine to add to his strangely powerful position as a folk devil for our times.
Consider the opening gambit of his speech to parliament about the PISA results, delivered on 3rd December.
Before I go into the detail of what the league tables show about the common features of high-performing systems can I take a moment - as I try to in every public statement I make - to thank our teachers for their hard work, dedication and idealism.
For somebody of Michael Gove's intellect and political acumen, it would be not only naive but collusive to think of Gove as the accidental victim of an overblown hate-phenomenon. His image is one that is carefully formed and he tends to our fury like one tends to a garden, with cautious well-timed cultivation. To my mind, every incendiary missive written by a bedraggled, degraded and fatigued teacher is money in the bank for Gove, who is building the requisite 'hard man' credentials for party leadership through his no-nonsense approach to state school educators and their imaged slovenliness.
Gove does not fit the mould of the political beast - I cannot picture him copulating, never mind cheating on a partner. Whereas Boris Johnson, the contender for future Tory leadership, has the rogueish bumbling masculinity of the aristocrat, Gove has the bony-wristed manhood of Walter from Dennis the Menace. His power comes from his relentless focus on rules and regulations, and on 'outing' those he sees as transgressors.
Whatever conclusions we draw about what needs to change, I hope we in this house can agree that we are fortunate to have the best generation of young teachers ever in our schools.With the inclusion of one word - young - Gove divides the entire teaching profession. With that one word used in what seems like a highly positive phrase, Gove leaves a raft of further questions.
- What makes the current generation of young teachers the best?
- What does this form of 'bestness' say about Gove's priorities?
- What should be do to cultivate this new Ubermensch?
- What is wrong with the old teachers that they deserve no mention?
In short then, I think that we ought not become so blinded by his panto-dame performance as Education Secretary, and we need to be careful not to play into his hands. There is a danger that if we continue to rise up against him in precisely the ways he anticipates, precisely when he is baiting us, we end up as powerless as the puppet staring up through its strings itno the eyes of puppetmaster.
Gove is unquestionably being a dick within education, and he actively chooses to ignore dissenting voices. I am going to research his moves a bit more, but I think I have one of his particular political strategies pinned down, which I am speculatively naming the Four-Step Stutter. If I have enough evidence for it I'll put it out there.
The idea of Michael Gove as Prime Minister is one we might need to get used to because in terms of the art of the politician, there is none equal to him.
He still looks like Pob though.