Sketch: Anchors needed in this maelstrom of quotations

 

Could this have been an act of sabotage by the outraged burghers of bucolic Stedham, deep in the Sussex countryside?

As Michael Gove was yesterday describing the plans of a south London academy to send 600 inner city pupils as weekly boarders to the village as “a bright ray of hope”, the actual lights in the House of Commons went out.

Given the row has already cost the party membership of a Tory councillor who warned of a “sexual volcano” and suggested the school’s Pakistani pupils would not “rise to the top”, vengeance could not be ruled out.

An unfazed Gove recited Newman’s “Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom”. And this was a mere fraction of a quotathon in which Tory backbenchers, in homage to Gove’s curricular policy, vied with each other – and the Education Secretary himself – to show off their knowledge of English literature and history.

First up was David Ruffley, quoting Ted Hughes’s remark that when children “know by heart 15 pages of Robert Frost or Swift’s Modest Proposal they have a… great sheet anchor in the maelstrom of linguistic turbulence”. He urged Gove to ensure “there is a role for rote learning in the schools of tomorrow”.

Gove has a touching habit of sorrowfully accusing his opponents of “partisanship” as if he himself was somehow above the sordid cut and thrust – while at the same time mixing it with the best of them.

Labour’s Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham asked if he expected schools to close as the result of a new free school in the (Tory-represented) south of the borough. The pity, said Gove, was that Labour had stood in the way of those working “to improve education”. If Cunningham would only “haud his wheesht”, he would better serve the children of Teeside.

Much loved by Scottish teachers, the expression roughly translates as “belt up”. It’s unlikely to catch on in schools south of the border. But it’s a safe bet it will in the Commons, where no one has yet condemned it as unparliamentary.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £38,000

£22000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role is a mixture of office...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Assistant

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests