Michael Gove: He's not the Education Secretary, he's a very silly boy

Michael Gove's silliness reached a new peak in his comments on the First World War

Steve Richards
Monday 06 January 2014 18:57
Comments
Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is the Tony Benn of the current cabinet. Like Benn, he began his career at the BBC before leaving journalism for politics; he is also unfailingly polite at all times, he is ideological while being admirably curious of those with conflicting ideological convictions, and he is also always provocatively interesting and sometimes almost wilfully silly.

Gove’s silliness reached a new peak in his comments on the First World War in which he attacked left-wing historians for failing to blame Germany for causing the conflagration. Gove is an avid and promiscuous reader. He knows as well as anyone – and virtually everyone knows – that the origins of the war are a source of endless debate. In the 1960s, it was a German historian, Fritz Fischer, who caused a sensation (and another mountain of revisionist accounts) by ascribing culpability to Germany. Some British historians, from right and left, have differed with Fischer. Some have agreed. There will never be resolution, which is why the debate is eternally compelling. Like a detective story with a vividly ambiguous ending, the debate about the origins of war shows why history can be so accessibly interesting a subject.

Benn was a hugely significant figure. Gove might become one. But when he writes polemical journalism in an area over which he holds responsibility in power, he harms himself far more than the historians he vilifies. A study of British political history shows that the challenge for the few national politicians who dare to be interesting is sensing when to avoid being too silly.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in