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Thursday 21 February 2013

Gove Polecats – More Trouble

As if Michael “Oiky” Gove and his retinue of polecats (featuring Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete among others) were not in deep enough doo-doo after yesterday’s ruling from Information Commissioner (IC) Christopher Graham on all that Free Schools programme stuff, more is coming to light on the behaviour of Cummings, along with his past form.

And, if that were not bad enough, “Oiky’s” letter to the IC is now available for all to see, and the excuses he puts forward in his defence are truly cringe-inducing, especially given the conduct of his SpAds. “Organisations opposed to Free Schools have run hostile publicity campaigns. In some cases these have become highly personal, vilifying individuals involved in opening a Free School” he pleads.

This is, of course, totally unlike his SpAds vilifying Chris Cook of the FT, author Michael Rosen and Observer man Toby Helm. But “Oiky” wasn’t done: “We want to make sure that people are free to open Free Schools without fear of reprisal or backlash” he tells, this too being nothing like the reprisal and backlash doled out by the @toryeducation Twitter feed.

Remember, Cummings and de Zoete have admitted feeding that feed (as it were), although both have denied being the ones who do the typing and sending, and the former has been upbraided by the Independent: “Michael Gove aide faces questions after implying journalist needed therapy” is the headline, with a suitably unflattering photo of Cummings beneath.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from Cummings’ conduct is that, in his attack on Cook, he has broken the SpAds’ code of conduct. Whether he survives at the Department for Education (DfE) much longer will depend on not only his being supported by his minister, but also having friends elsewhere in the Tory Party, but the signs from his past are not good.

Cummings had been director of strategy to then Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith back in 2002. His sudden resignation from IDS’ team was considered at the time to have weakened the leadership, and his intervention the following year, when he asserted that IDS was not up to the job, came shortly before MPs expressed their lack of confidence in their leader and there was a change.

IDS is one of few ministers who was able to tell Young Dave at the time of his last reshuffle that he was not prepared to consider moving to another department – and know he could get away with it. And Cummings has well and truly shat all over that particular doorstep. So that’s another thumbs down for “the new Damian McBride”, and before next weekend’s probably less than favourable press.

Anyone with room for a stray polecat knows where to apply.

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