Jingle bells: When classic-loving Michael Gove embraced popular culture

Register shows former Education Secretary accepted £1,250 tickets to Capital FM’s pre-Christmas ball

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Michael Gove, the former Education Secretary who wanted British teenagers to study classics that are at the very least a century old has shown that he is not totally opposed to modern, popular culture – when there is a freebie on offer.

In the current Register of Member’s Interests, he declares that he accepted five free tickets, worth £1,250 in all, to Capital FM’s pre-Christmas Jingle Bell Ball.

The biggest name at the star-studded ball was Ed Sheeran. It was headlined by Taylor Swift. According to Capital FM, “it was the biggest event of the year - but boy were some unexpected moments!” They meant astonishing facts such as the Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer appearing one man short because 19 year old Michael Clifford had lost his passport and was stranded in the USA. They were not referring to the strange presence of a 47 year old Tory politician among the kids in the audience.

This is the man who insisted that the syllabus for GCSE English literature must include at least one Shakespeare play, poetry from 1789 on, and one 19th century novel. It is down to him that the 17-year-old living in your road is now reading Villette, by Charlotte Bronte.

After the changes were announced last year, it was rumoured that Gove had intervened in person because he did not want British schoolchildren studying 20th century Americans novels such as Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, or To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee. Paul Dodd, the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA exam board’s head of GCSE and A-level reform, was quoted as saying that Gove ‘really dislikes' Mice and Men.

It was one of the last controversies involving Mr Gove  before David Cameron demoted him to the job of Chief Whip. On this occasion, the minister tried to defend himself in an article for the Daily Telegraph, insisting that he did not dislike Steinbeck’s or Lee’s novels at all, and wanted children to read as widely as possible.

Even if we take him at his word, the line up at Jingle Bell Ball was surely beyond his cultural range. It was much more likely to appeal to his young children.

That may explain why he needed five tickets.