Gove: a straw-man debate over Aunt Sally

Another week and Michael Gove finds himself yet again put on the naughty step by Britain’s educational establishment and liberal commentariat. This time, the flimsy excuse for the anti-Gove bile is his decision to sack Labour peer Sally Morgan as chair of Ofsted, the national schools inspectorate.

In the Guardian, the Conservative education secretary has been dobbed in for attempting to politically influence education policy, when he should really leave these matters to his unelected elders who know better. Meanwhile, another leading educationalist has given Gove a serious ticking off for consorting with the wrong type of friends (too many ‘yes men’ and not enough ‘no baronesses’, presumably). The Daily Mirror has found him guilty of the worst offence of all: an ‘insubordinate attitude towards teachers’.

Welcome to the crazy world of the British political quangocracy, where Britain’s electorate democratically votes in ministers, who then have the mandate to appoint people untainted by the grubby business of winning elections, who in turn then disagree with those self-same ministers about how to implement government policy. As New Labourite commentator Dan Hodges has noted, New Labour is currently accusing the Conservatives of a grave crime against democracy – getting rid of a quangocrat whose face doesn’t fit – that has not been perpetrated since, er, the last Labour government. Such is the quixotic power of Gove-phobia among the chattering classes: the loss of a Blairite loyalist and unelected member of the House of Lords, Baroness Morgan of Huyton, can now be hailed as a grave day for progress.

Gove’s education reforms, and his political appointments, should of course be open to the most rigorous scrutiny and debate. Yet we should ultimately be much more wary of the increasing trend of politicians outsourcing ever more authority to supposedly ‘independent’ (read: ‘unaccountable’) civil servants, consultants and advisers. Whatever you think of Gove the politician, those rushing to tell tales on him to teacher are the ones most desperately in need of a political education.

David Bowden is a columnist for spiked.

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