Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Nicky Morgan’s ministerial debut haunted by the ghost of her predecessor
Michael Gove himself was not present, even when David Cameron arrived as the Commons chamber began to fill up for his statement on Flight MH17 and Gaza
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Monday 21 July 2014
New Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s manner normally manages to stay just this side of “jolly hockey sticks” (meaning, according to one dictionary definition, “a woman… of a high social class who is enthusiastic in a way that annoys most people”).
But teachers rejoicing at the departure of Michael Gove may worry at her spirited response to the Tory Richard Fuller’s astonishing suggestion that Mr Gove had not been “radical enough” on free schools. “It is always exciting to be tempted to be more radical,” she mused dangerously. “My commitment to free schools is absolutely undimmed.”
Luckily, this eccentric criticism of Mr Gove was not generally shared on the Coalition benches. Rarely can a ministerial first outing have been so dominated by an absent predecessor. Ms Morgan herself lavishly praised “one of the great reforming Secretaries of State for Education”. The Schools minister David Laws went out of his way to “pay tribute” to his advocacy “of higher standards in education” – all the more warmly, doubtless, now he is liberated from his frictional relationship with his ex-boss.
Labour’s approach to the “legacy” on which Ms Morgan vowed to “build” was more circumspect. Equally relieved, perhaps, at the departure of a man who, however shamelessly, had tended to get the better of him in the Commons, even the shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt insisted he wished to “pay tribute” to his departed opponent by saying he was “full of ideas” but then added: “They just happened to be the wrong ones.” The shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan advised Ms Morgan to “change the locks” of her department’s Sanctuary Buildings headquarters to ensure that Mr Gove and his Rasputin Dominic Cummings did not “sneak back after dark”.
Touchingly determined to make a fresh start with the new Secretary of State despite this cross-party banter, Labour’s Keith Vaz, himself “a firm supporter of free schools”, warmly asked Ms Morgan, a constituency neighbour, to open one for Sikhs in his constituency. We may never know whether he would have extended the same invitation to her predecessor.
Mr Gove himself was not present, even when David Cameron arrived as the Commons chamber began to fill up for his statement on Flight MH17 and Gaza after education questions. Was the new Chief Whip on strike in protest at his removal from Education, given his non-appearance at Thursday’s questions on parliamentary business? Eventually, he turned up, late, after Mr Cameron had already started speaking. Thus generously ensuring that his presence should not distract for a second from his successor’s debut.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...