9 Sep 2011

In conversation with – Michael Gove

Political Editor

Many see Education Secretary Michael Gove as a traditionalist. Why then has he got a picture of Lenin in his office? And where next for the Conservative dream?

Many see Education Secretary Michael Gove as a traditionalist, but why then has he got a picture of Lenin in his office?

He has, in his time, been an NUJ striker and a Times editorial manager when the paper was in hot pursuit of Lord Ashcroft.

He’s hosted a late night Channel 4 satirical chat show with David Baddiel and written a biography of Michael Portillo, subtitled “The Future of the Right”.

He has described Tony Blair as a political hero. His wife, Times columnist Sarah Vine, describes him as possibly the worst driver in the western world.

Oh yes… and much of the coalition’s reputation for reform in domestic policy rests on his shoulders. Meet Michael Gove, the education secretary.

Michael Gove compares the battle to give a proper education to the least advantaged in society to a modern-day civil rights movement. He’s got a picture of Malcolm X on his secretary of state’s office wall to drum the message home.

He’s also got a picture of Barack Obama there. And Lenin too.

With luck, we’ll find out quite why when he comes to the first Conservative conference Channel 4 News “In Conversation” fringe meeting on 3 October at 1pm.

What it all tells you is that education policy is in the hands of someone who is a bit of a political maverick on some measures, but a self -proclaimed traditionalist by other measures.

On the curriculum you won’t find many voices more “trad”. Michael Gove wants Austen, Dickens, Hardy and Byron back in the classroom. And he wants Britain’s island story on the whiteboards too.

After the formation of the coalition, he was first into the opposition’s fire, unveiling his school reform plans when the coalition came to power, coming in for particularly heavy criticism over his re-thinking of the school building plans.

Michael Gove was one of the first and most heartfelt into battle defending the coalition partners, the Lib Dems. Behind the scenes, he was one of the foremost advocates for military intervention over Libya.

Michael Gove is seen as an arch-moderniser, a Cameron before Cameron himself. So what next for that project? And are old-style Conservatives welcome on the journey? You can join me to find out at 1pm on 3 October.