Simon Carr: Gove's performance is less than satisfactory

Sketch: Michael Gove is one of the leading Tory amateurs, one of the laughing Cavaliers
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There weren't really five lists with mistakes: they were two lists split into two with duplicated mistakes and a third list corrected the duplicates and the sixth list didn't actually exist even though the fifth list from last week had been superseded by a new list which Ed Balls said triumphantly contained a mistake all of its own.

Naturally, according to the shadow Schools Minister, shock had turned to anger – widespread anger. So widespread in fact that the minister was angriest of all. Michael Gove wasn't just sharing the rage – he was leading it.

He has for a week been cancelling school building projects, some of which had already been cancelled, others had been approved and others which had been finished years ago. Replying to the revelations of his old adversary, Gove told us how shocked and angry he was about ... the behaviour of the last government. Did we know that £1.3m had been paid to a "consultant"? Money that could have been spent on nourishing five-a-day food for deprived scholars had been sluiced into the crop of this filthy, fiscal onanist! (I'm giving the minister a hand, you understand.) It wasn't a complete answer to the question Balls was asking.

In his second response to a question about the legal risks of the early cancellations, Gove revealed that the voters of Bingley and Ilkley were not angry but disgusted! And what they were disgusted by was waste! And yet more disgusted with Balls who had never apologised for a mistake in his life "which is why he's on that side of the House and we're on this side!"

It's well known that, without the Tory talent for apologising, there'd be a Lib-Lab coalition and it would be Balls cancelling the schools building programme instead.

Michael Gove is one of the leading Tory amateurs, one of the laughing Cavaliers. It's what makes them a welcome difference from the dour, run-grubbing, point-scoring, grudge-holding professionals, the Roundheads. But it was noticeable yesterday that Gove was getting a bit more professional in his manner. He said that his permanent secretary had made it clear in a letter that the last government created this mess. That sounds like no letter a permanent secretary would write.

He also talked about "the scandalous way education had been underfunded by the previous government", and "the ideologically driven closure of special schools". These statements submit to the old pro's rule of blaming your opponent for your own most obvious fault.

On the other hand, the amateur spirit survives to the extent that Gove can praise, flirt and consensualise with his opponents – and also tick off Tristram Hunt for using "less" instead of "fewer". Hunt the History is a clever clogs or it wouldn't be funny. And it got such a Tory roar that the fellow looked around his own benches with an incredulous expression.

NB: Nick Gibb acknowledged that 80 per cent of behaviour in secondary school was rated "good or outstanding", meaning that the behaviour of one in five pupils was no better than "satisfactory". But what's wrong with "satisfactory"? Unless "satisfactory" means "unsatisfactory" – which in education argot is probably the case.

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