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Thursday 28 February 2013

Gove, Recall, And Spin

[Update at end of post]

Nothing is straightforward in the saga of Michael “Oiky” Gove and his retinue of polecats at the Department for Education (DfE), and to illustrate this superbly has been a summons from the Education Select Committee for “Oiky” to present himself and be subjected to another gentle grilling in due course. Such matters should be straightforward, but not for Gove.

Even the manner in which the Committee decided to summon Gove was unusual: the chairman was absent and unwell, and the other four Tory MPs were, by the most remarkable of coincidences, late arriving. In the meantime, the five Labour members and one Lib Dem (David Ward, of recent “the Jews” infamy, in case you were wondering) voted unanimously to haul “Oiky” before them.

So it’s already smelling moderately ripe, even before the spin starts. And with Gove there has to be spin. This came from the supposedly non-partisan but Gove supporting rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, where it was conceded that SpAd Dominic Cummings was “bombastic”. Gove was asserted to be “calling their bluff”. Observer man Toby Helm was said to be “cock-a-hoop”.

These assertions can be readily tested, even with the bullshit detector emitting a distracting scream. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. When Gove appears is not for him to dictate to the committee. And we can see exactly how “cock-a-hoop” Helm was by studying his Twitter feed. This reveals that he was not “cock-a-hoop” in the slightest. More lame Fawkes spin.

What is also not going to impress the Committee is “Oiky’s” decision to play smartarse: “I will, of course, be happy to appear in front of you at any time to discuss the issue. I am, in fact, free tomorrow to answer any question you might like to put. Then, perhaps, the Department for Education team can get on with improving children's lives and you can consider where your own energies might be directed”.

This is not even coded subtly: Gove is telling the Committee quite explicitly that he believes they are wasting his time and should shove off and do something else instead (as well as assuming that screwing with the education system equates to “improving children’s lives”). This should be compared with what Committee chair Graham Stuart has said.

The committee just wishes to examine these issues a little more carefully. I don't think anyone is suggesting that Michael Gove has been anything other than straightforward with us ... It will be up to members [of my committee] to decide which particular lines they wish to pursue” [my emphasis]. In other words, “Oikyshould stop spinning, turn up, and answer the questions.

Where’s the problem in that? Methinks someone doth protest too much.

[UPDATE 1605 hours: it has been confirmed that Gove will give evidence, along with Chris Wormald, his Permanent Secretary, at 0930 hours on March 13 (note also, as all who have ploughed through Shakespeare's Julius Caesar should already know, that the Ides of March falls on the fifteenth day of that month, not the thirteenth).

To no surprise at all, Gove's spin acolytes at the Guido Fawkes blog have not updated their post, and nor has @toryeducation mentioned this date, although, true to Dominic Cummings' high standards, the account has cited the Fawkes blog as its primary source.

@toryeducation has also managed not to notice that four Tory MPs all turned up late to the Education Select Committee - late enough to allow the Labour and Lib Dem members to vote unanimously to summon Gove. Some folks do have difficulty taking the hint]

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