Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Tristram Hunt throws the (EngLit) book at Michael Gove

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an ambitious minister possessed of a large department tampers with the legacy of the country’s most celebrated woman novelist at his peril. A point not lost on the new shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, who today challenged Michael Gove to confirm that pupils studying only English Language will be “excluded from studying great works of English literature”.

This was hitting Gove where it hurts. For although the Education Secretary has trumpeted the importance of pre-20th century novelists to the English Literature GCSE,  EngLit isn’t in the core curriculum. And grammar-heavy English Language, which is, won’t have any set texts.

Accusing Gove of introducing “the soft bigotry of low expectations into our education system” (ouch), Hunt asked him why, while Gove had “enjoyed studying the works of Jane Austen and Wilfred Owen” at his Aberdeen alma mater, “is it not okay for kids in Harlow and Blackpool today?”

What a power struggle of eggheads this promises to be. With an Education Secretary purportedly committed to intellectual rigour in the country’s classrooms up against a Cambridge PhD, it always threatened to turn into a parliamentary fusion of Mastermind and Brain of Britain. Though Gove’s pushback was more er… pub quiz. “Tragically, I was not able to take English GCSE, because I was in Scotland. As a historian, the hon. Gentleman could perhaps do with studying geography.” This was pretty feeble, since Hunt had not actually said Gove had studied GCSE rather than the Scottish equivalent.

And then a rarity. A “point of order” which was actually interesting. Tory John Whittingdale was upset that allegations made under the ancient protection of absolute parliamentary privilege to the select committee he chairs  – Culture Media and Sport – by the former FA chairman Lord Triesman of corruption against four members of FIFA during the 2018 World Cup bid, are to be challenged in the courts.

One of those named – the man from Thailand – has won leave to appeal against a High Court dismissal of his attempt to sue the Labour peer. If witnesses could not be confident they were immune from such legal action, Whittingdale said, it “will severely damage the ability of select committees to obtain the information they require”.

Speaker John Bercow said his counsel had written to the Court expressing his own “grave concerns”.

This has all the makings of a first class constitutional row. And it could even unfold on TV.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links