Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Michael Gove claims he doesn’t bruise easily – but no one threw any punches

Does that Right Hon Gentleman agree that No 10 is ‘very out of touch’?

Asked early in his ministerial questions slot about whether he was “embarrassed” by free-school failures, Michael Gove said on Monday, with typical aplomb, that “I don’t mind embarrassment personally,” adding thoughtfully: “Just as well, some might say.”

Hmm, we thought. Not even after the morning’s injudicious public ravings of his former – and maybe not so former – henchman and No 1 fan Dominic Cummings?

The questions were pretty obvious. As in “Does the Right Honourable Gentleman agree with his closest ally and adviser for six years that the Prime Minister lacks ‘the slightest sense of purpose?’ Or that the PM is a ‘sphinx without a riddle’? Or that No 10 is ‘very out of touch’ and there is no ‘grip or focus’ at the top? Or that the PM’s chief of staff is ‘a classic third-rate suck-up kick-down sycophant presiding over a shambolic court?’”

Strangely, they weren’t asked. Presented with the best opportunity Gove’s opposite number Tristram Hunt is likely to have before the election to test the Education Secretary’s professed unembarrassability, he instead repeated his justified calls for “a proper system of independent local accountability” in the aftermath of the so-called “Trojan Horse” affair in Birmingham.

Doubtless this was for high-minded reasons: advisers are just a beltway issue, no interest outside the Westminster village etc.

Except that Gove had not actually denied that Cummings, a key enforcer of his education reforms, had been in last week to discuss the handling of “Trojan Horse”.

Instead he loyally – to Cummings that is – told shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan that “all sorts of people from time to time seek to visit the Department for Education in order to exchange ideas with old friends and colleagues”.

And Gove could at least have been asked about Cummings’ view that British education should be “voucherised”. Or that his Department’s civil service staff should be cut by at least 75 per cent.

When Labour’s Karen Buck, to her credit, asked about the recent visit to the department by this particular “old friend and colleague” Gove glibly – and in her case wholly unfairly – accused her of diving down the “rabbit hole of Whitehall process instead of standing up for her constituents”.

This was nonsense, of course. But he escaped without serious challenge. The goal was open. But the shot never came.

You have to hope that England do better than this in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...