Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Poetry corner or much ado about nothing...?

The gentleman appreciates beauty in many spheres of human endeavour

Normally we look to Michael Gove for the  flash of cold, ideological, steel. Instead we got Mills and Boon. The Education Secretary proclaimed himself “in love” with Diane Abbott. But only, it should be said, after  Ms Abbott had  thrown herself at the Education Secretary.

How else to explain her intervention after Gove’s  statement on GCSE reform was repeatedly laced with words like “rigorous” and “academic”: “Does he agree with me that an emphasis on rigorous education and an emphasis on attaining core academic subjects is not, as is sometimes argued, contrary to the interests of working class children and black and ethnic minority children?”

In the Latin whose return to Britain’s schools the Education Secretary has championed, this is a “nonne” question — one expecting the answer “yes.” Or perhaps Yes! Yes! Yes!  What he actually said in his ecstatic reply was: “I am in love. She is absolutely right. If I had been a member of the Labour Party” — a prospect even more improbable than this cloying new romance — “I  would have voted for her  to be the leader.”

Whether because of his new infatuation, poetry was much on the Education Secretary’s mind. As in the following  erudite exchange with Labour’s Chris Bryant who could not understand  “why he thinks that learning vast quantities of “The Wreck of the Hesperus” or “The boy stood on the burning deck” or “If” will make young people better equipped for the work environment.” Gove: I know that the hon. Gentleman appreciates beauty in many spheres of human endeavour” Bryant: ”Truth is beauty, beauty truth.” Gove: “And he is quoting Keats now.”

Certainly the Education Secretary was at his most benign. He  congratulated his shadow Stephen Twigg –who had joked that  that  he was  “cutting back on resits for students, but he affords himself a fourth attempt at GCSE reform” on “his witty and discursive speech.” And when  Labour’s  Barry Sheerman –while welcoming the new developments — warned that “he sometimes falls into the trap of being more in favour of disruptive innovation that building a consensus for change” Gove was positively  unctuous. “Those are very generous words from an experienced politician that I shall take to heart,” he said.

So was this a  new Gove? Probably not. Even amid all the poetry, the steel occasionally flashed. Labour’s Geraint Davies,  worried that Welsh  students  could be disadvantaged by having different qualifications, punctured the consensual mood by suggesting  that he  should have “tried harder to get a compromise”  instead of “leaking the contents of his meetings with the Welsh Government”to the press. “Into every life a little rain must fall” Gove said with a sigh, before squarely blaming the devolved administration for its failure to “preserve rigour.”

It wasn’t clear whether Gove was quoting the 1944 Ink Spots hit or — more likely —  the poem by Longfellow which inspired its lyric. But either way he got the words—and the metre — slightly  wrong. The line is “Into each  life a little rain must fall.” Rigour, Secretary of State. Rigour.     

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
science
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game