Cabinet reshuffle: Sarah Vine, the wife of ousted Education Secretary Michael Gove, slams David Cameron over party shake-up
Sarah Vine's criticism is all the remarkable because she is a close friend of Mr Cameron’s wife Samantha
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 16 July 2014
David Cameron’s sweeping reshuffle ran into immediate trouble today when the wife of Michael Gove attacked the Prime Minister’s decision to oust him as Education Secretary.
Sarah Vine, a columnist on the Daily Mail newspaper, tweeted that Tuesday’s Cabinet shake-up was “a shabby day’s work which Cameron will live to regret”.
It linked to a scathing article in the Mail with the same headline in which Max Hastings, a former Daily Telegraph editor, said Mr Gove’s “sacking” had “shocked Middle England”.
He wrote: “The removal of Michael Gove, standard-bearer for the most important reforms in British government this century, is worse than a crime.”
Ms Vine’s assault threatens to blow out of the water Downing Street’s attempt to portray Mr Gove’s new job as the Government’s Chief Whip as a vital role rather than a demotion. Her criticism is all the remarkable because she is a close friend of Mr Cameron’s wife Samantha.
Allies of Mr Gove say he feels “bruised” by his removal from the Department for Education and that Mr Cameron had to “twist his arm” over a prolonged period before he reluctantly agreed to leave it.
Some Conservative MPs doubt whether Mr Gove will take on one of the roles announced by Number 10: as a “front man” presenting Conservative policy in broadcast interviews.
Michael Gove was switched from Education Secretary to the Government’s Chief Whip after polling showed he was deeply unpopular with teachers (Getty) They believe this is at odds with the reason for his surprise job switch – private polling presented by Lynton Crosby, the Tories’ Australian election strategist, showing that Mr Gove is deeply unpopular with teachers.
That was reinforced by an Ipsos MORI survey showing that Mr Gove is one of the least popular politicians in Britain.
Only 22 per cent of the public like the former Education Secretary, while 54 per cent dislike him. His policies on education are liked by 25 per cent but disliked by 51 per cent. The findings suggest he alienated parents as well as teachers, particularly women.
Video: Gove 'looking forward' to being part of Cameron' team
As Mr Cameron continued his reshuffle by appointing junior ministers, some Tory men voiced their concern about the promotion of women MPs: one of the main features of the shake-up.
The male MPs noted that no female ministers had been dismissed. One ousted minister complained: “No matter how hopeless or how provocative you are, you won’t get sacked if you’re a woman because he has to meet his quotas” [that a third of ministerial posts are held by women].
Esther McVey, the Employment Minister, laughed off criticism of the “Downing Street catwalk” after photographs showed her and other promoted women outside Number 10.
Esther McVey kept her job as Employment Minister (EPA)
She said it was “fantastic having women in powerful positions” and that the so-called catwalk was "fine if it inspires girls to go into politics”.
The reshuffle caused tensions inside the Coalition after Michael Fallon, the new Defence Secretary, admitted the Cabinet was now more Eurosceptic.
He said: "It's certainly a Eurosceptic cabinet, but the country is Eurosceptic now. We think Europe has been on the wrong lines.”
Asked if the reshuffle contained a message for Ukip supporters, he told the BBC: "Of course we want people to vote for the only party that really can make change in Europe. Ukip would simply leave, that's not the answer. The answer is to get the reforms we want and to get public opinion behind them."
But Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “This Government, the Coalition Government, because of the Liberal Democrats in it, remains anchored in the centre ground, with Britain anchored firmly in the heart of the European Union.”
He added: “I think the Conservatives are talking to each other rather than to the country, or even the rest of Europe, about Europe.”
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