Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Numpties are running riot without Michael Gove

Without the former Education Secretary, the life has drained from this monthly event

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Indy Politics

Right at the end of Commons Education Questions on Monday, something snapped for Labour’s Barry Sheerman. The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, had been “casting a spell” on her ministerial team, he claimed. “I have never seen a bunch of numpties with [such] a lack of vision, lack of passion,” he added, or rather shouted.

(It turns out that “numpty” is not unparliamentary language. Speaker John Bercow intervened in order not to intervene. The word “numpties”, he said, might be “tasteless” but “I don’t think it constitutes any threat to order”.)

Even when the partisan element of the former Education Select Committee chairman’s outburst – which roused us from the torpor into which we had descended in the previous hour – is discounted, it was apparent he might be on to something. Was he perhaps implying that we were actually missing the unwillingly reshuffled Michael Gove? Because, incredible as it seems – and it hurts to say it – we were.


Without him, the life has drained from this monthly event. Morgan’s shadow, Tristram Hunt, promoted his rather mild proposal for the tax relief enjoyed by private schools to be conditional on their partnering ones in the state sector. Jubilant that the head of University College School, Hunt’s own alma mater, had extravagantly called the plan “offensive bigotry”, Morgan suggested that Hunt’s old school would not be “unveiling any statues to [him] any time soon”. 

But the fizz had gone. At the very least Gove would have shamelessly – and unfairly – shot back “I’m all right Jack – pull up the ladder” taunts at Hunt. Morgan merely repeated that there were lots of “collaborative partnerships” already – despite, as Labour’s Ian Lucas had pointed out, the Chief Inspector of Schools saying private schools were merely offering “crumbs from the table” to their state counterparts.

Meanwhile Tory Mark Pritchard announced that: “Growing up in the 1980s in Herefordshire, going to school at that time, there was a widespread and comprehensive careers service.” Whatever else Pritchard was taught in Herefordshire, it didn’t include avoidance of hanging participles.

Morgan replied “that there is no such thing as a career for life any more”. Not for Education Secretaries anyway.