Daily catch-up: Michael Gove, Liberal Hero of the Week

All praise to the Justice Secretary; plus evidence-based mind-changing and a picture of the other end of the seasons

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The Independent Online

"Late Summer", Stoke-by-Nayland, by John Northcote Nash. Oil on canvas (Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives). Via the John Constable Twitter account. Just the thing as February comes.

• Quotation of the Week came from Michael Gove, Liberal Hero of the Week, in Justice Questions in the Commons on Tuesday:

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): The Secretary of State made his name in the Department for Education as someone who would take on vested interests, but he has gone native in record time as Secretary of State for Justice. That includes hanging on every word that is said by the Howard League for Penal Reform—the NUT of the justice system—and reappointing Nick Hardwick. When will he get back his mojo and put the victims of crime at the heart of what he is doing? Come back Ken Clarke, all is forgiven!

Michael Gove: I am not sure that Labour Members would agree with the suggestion that I have become a sandal-wearing, muesli-munching, vegan vaguester. I think that they would probably say that I am the same red-in-tooth-and-claw blue Tory that I have always been. It is because I am a Conservative that I believe in the rule of law as the foundation stone of our civilisation; it is because I am a Conservative that I believe that evil must be punished; but it is also because I am a Conservative, and a Christian, that I believe in redemption, and I think that the purpose of our prison system and our criminal law is to keep people safe by making people better.

Some colleagues reported Gove as saying "vapester", so I checked with the Justice Secretary. He tells me he meant "vaguester", and apologised that this might be an unacceptable neologism. Definitely not. A very fine word, which I shall use as often as possible. 

Gove yesterday suspended cuts to legal aid planned by Chris Grayling, his predecessor. It is not clear where the money for this U-turn is coming from, just as we will believe the new policy of rehabilitation of offenders when it bears fruit, but Gove has made a fine start in his new post. 


In so doing, Gove has possibly set up one of the most obscure Top 10s of my series: Most Unceremonious Scrapping of Policies By A Minister of the Same Party. David Allen Green and Adam Wagner invited nominations. So far the only one forthcoming has been Andy Burnham, who succeeded Alan Johnson as Health Secretary in June 2009. 

• Martin Robbins in The Guardian yesterday said he used to be opposed to tuition fees until he looked at the evidence. Changing your mind because of the evidence? That sort of thing will never catch on. 

• On the subject of Top 10s, a message from the sales department. The Kindle edition of Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top 10s from Politics to Pop, is now available for £1.89, less than an Americano Primo in Costa Coffee. The e-book of Tony Blair: Prime Minister, the 2013 edition, has been reduced from £16 to £12.15, which could buy quite a lot of coffee, but there is also a lot of book in there.   

• And finally, thanks to Moose Allain ‏for this:

"I've never watched Netflix, I assume it only shows Subbuteo."