The Sketch: Sadly for Grayling, he's more angry rabbit than Tebbit

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The Independent Online

Wednesday's the extra day, the dustbin day, when they shovel in all the platform speakers who can't make platform speeches.

Chris Grayling. Michael Gove. Jeremy Hunt. The rising generation. Natural habitat: the meeting room, the briefing room, the interview room. Natural audience size: 12 to 20.

It's as well for them that politics isn't a mass activity anymore. Hitting these big audiences is very difficult. You only get good at it by doing it a lot, it's like fighting in pubs.

If you got into a pub fight with Gove you'd be pretty confident. Yes, you're a 10-year-old girl and you don't want to break your glasses but you'd have him. One in the waistcoat and as he sinks, gasping – the steel comb dragged underneath his nostrils. That would teach him about classroom disruption.

I agree with everything he says about education. Free State Schools? Sensational. But when he pitches it from the stage I find myself looking for the good points in the swaggering, knife-wielding troublemakers who break up classes.

And as for bringing troops in to the classroom "to provide not just discipline" – that may prove a bridge too far. Snipers on the roof I can understand. Picking off the troublemakers from 800 yards away – that will keep the soldiers out of harm's way. But corporal punishment has been abolished, let alone capital punishment. Has this really been thought through?

"I will not allow another generation of our poorest children to have their future blighted by failing schools," he says. But he will. We all will. Because that's what we do, left, right and centre.

As for the idea that he'll defeat "local bureaucrats [who] will be on notice to justify their position" – good grief man, that's the one thing bureaucrats can do. It's how they get where they've got.

The trouble is that Gove is declaring war on a wide coalition. Bureaucrats, local authorities, the teaching unions, Whitehall, failing school managements and the liberal apologists for the status quo. That's a mass activity. He needs mass skills. But he's in education, maybe he'll acquire the appropriate skills suite.

As for Chris Grayling... He may be hoping to look into his shaving mirror and see Lord Tebbit looking back. But he has an age of darkness to live through first. In the meantime his angry rabbit act will not go down well among 10-year-old girls.

There is one interesting and useful idea to curb yobbery – allowing a deputation from the community to petition a magistrate to summon people that day to court. But the idea is from Labour's Frank Field and Grayling rejected it.

"I will not tolerate more of the chaos of the past few years!" But, I cry from the depths of Tory fatalism, what else is there to do?

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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