19 Jan 2011

Michael Gove’s Freudian slip?

Interesting slip by Michael Gove in the Commons on tactical voting. Interesting because it was a slip. Here’s what he said (the topic was statutory requirements to provide school transport).

“In Hull, Liberal Democrat-controlled Hull, any student in receipt of Education Maintenance Allowance also gets a travel grant to cope with the full cost. Well they won’t if a Labour council takes power, I suspect.

But if they’re wise enough to vote Liberal Democrat at the next local elections in Hull, or for the Conservatives in any seat where we are well-placed to defeat Labour, then they will have a council that is fulfilling its statutory duty. And it’s no surprise that there are Liberal Democrat and Conservative councils that are ensuring that all students receive the support that they deserve.”

He wasn’t announcing a major new political strategy, backing the Lib Dems where they are best placed to defeat Labour. But he was revealing the way thinking amongst senior figures close to the PM. David Cameron released thousands of his voters to support the Lib Dem in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election with a nod and a wink. This was more an accidental twitch. Both have in common that they show a frame of mind – the two parties locked together in coalition cannot ignore that in contests.

How far does it go? No-one knows. David Cameron didn’t feel confident enough to make an explicit call on Tory supporters to back the Lib Dems but he may be reflecting that he didn’t need to … by some estimates 3 to 4,000 Tories did it anyway.

Anyway, it might all mean that Michael Gove, already a pin-up for the Cleggite wing of the Lib Dems, will be guaranteed a warm welcome tonight when he attends the inaugural dinner of the group Coalition 2.0, which was set-up to think about where the Coalition goes in 2013-15, the second stage of the government, when the Coalition agreement might be in need of refreshment with some new policies to pursue (members of the group include Tory minister Greg Clarke, and Lib Dems David Laws and Chris Huhne).

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