Right-wing parts of the blogosphere shouting “non story”. The singular involvement of the deeply subversive Guardian and its Sunday stablemate the Observer. The thought entering that there is more to come. Rebuttal being handled by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog. All of this brings a feeling of déjà vu to proceedings.
If it quacks like an oik ...
Add to this the target of the Observer and Guardian stories being a folk hero of the right – rather as Rupe was, and to many still is, despite Phonehackgate – and the sense that we have all been here before is merely heightened. This time, though, the thoroughly deserving subject is Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove, the one member of the cabinet most appropriate for ridicule.
Gove has, especially in recent months, conducted his business primarily through the print media. That he is a former Murdoch hack, and his wife still is one, is not a coincidence. This has enabled him to cause himself to be portrayed as lone saviour of the education system, principled reforming warrior and slayer of Any Rotten Lefty He Can Think Of, and future Tory leader (who sniggered? Go and sit at the back).
The press conduit is at its most useful when it comes to burnishing the Gove image, and countering the obvious: that “Oiky” is a serial bullshitter and dodger of inconvenient questions, someone who is unconvincing and on occasion hesitant when speaking in public, and that his uninspiring track record in Government has included coming off second best in every encounter with “Auguste” Balls.
With Balls being Labour hate figure number one, that’s not the kind of thought that any credible Tory front bencher wants to see take hold among the electorate, and hence the wall to wall press spin. But now it seems that the Gove machine has been taking its spinning duties a little over-zealously, with the suggestion that publicly funded Special Advisors (SpAds) have been behind a partisan Twitter feed.
What has not helped matters chez “Oiky” is the sneering and dismissive attitude of one of those SpAds towards the Observer’s enquiries. And helping even less is that Labour has now joined the fray, suggesting that the ministerial code may have been broken “on several occasions”. Stephen Twigg has now written to the cabinet secretary to formalise his complaint.
Now, this may be a trivial matter. But the organised rebuttal and associated name calling can only raise suspicion that someone is protesting too much, or at the very least overreacting needlessly. And it’s not a coincidence that anyone criticising “Oiky” Gove is invariably jumped on by press, pundits and obedient bloggers almost as soon as they put their head above the parapet.
We have not heard the last of this story. But someone would rather we had.