Letters to the Guardian are not available online so I have taken the liberty of copying and posting one which is in today’s paper under the heading Fantasies shaping children’s futures :
“If what you want is to understand Michael Gove as a public figure in charge of the nation’s educational needs, there is little point in debating what he might call his “ideas” (Letters, 4 February). One needs rather to focus on three things. First, and notwithstanding the acquired, but now melting, patina of Oxford cleverness, his manifest stupidity, apparently incorrigible. Only an idiot could seriously maintain that a day will come, causally engineered by none other than Michael Gove himself, when it will be impossible to distinguish state schools from fee-paying schools – a deft account of the sheer idiocy of this view is provided by Peter Wilby (Comment, 4 February).“Second, his fantasy life, that of a man lost in translation between past and present, and more precisely the fantasy, bordering on obsession, of the arriviste, wannabe toff drooling over the lexicon of long ago while dreaming of the glory days of “prep” and “lines”. Third, the political ambition. Despite all the guff about linking educational “standards” and “social mobility”, everything that Gove does as secretary of state for education serves a very precise purpose. Gove wants to be the next leader of the Tory party and one day perhaps prime minister.
“How do you use the education brief to best serve that end? By playing to the Tory right and making an educational offer to those sections of the electorate which, in the context of recession, no longer feel able to afford private education for their children. It is only a matter of time before the sharp-elbow classes swamp the academies and the free schools. Reintroducing the “common entrance” exam at 13 (another of the terms in the vocabulary of Gove’s regressive fantasy life; the common entrance, I ask you!) will seal the deal on that front.
“The rest is dross. Gove is not only the silliest member of the government; given that his compulsions and ambitions are currently shaping the future of millions of children, he is also the most dangerous. The priority has surely to be not debating him, but getting rid of him.
Professor Christopher Prendergast
King’s College, Cambridge
And this is the letter I have just submitted in response:
Professor Prendergast finishes his otherwise superb letter (6 February) by suggesting that Michael Gove is the most dangerous member of the government. The competition is hot and the bar is high but the Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Patterson, is surely far more dangerous. Yet even so the ultimate prize must go to the man who appointed such a known global warming denier to such a crucial position at such a crucial time.