Gove elites 2
Conservative Party

Michael Gove doesn't want to be PM: he wants meritocracy and freedom

 

“Michael Gove won’t admit it, but tonight’s EU debate is his first audition for the Tory leadership,” wrote Asa Bennett in the Telegraph. Except he didn’t because it wasn’t. He isn’t interested in the job, and nor, more importantly, is Mrs Gove interested in him getting the job. The Justice Secretary has made it clear that doesn’t “have what it takes” to be Prime Minister. Indeed, he has previously offered to sign a piece of parchment in his own blood saying he doesn’t want to be Prime Minister. Sarah Vine would doubtless prick his thumb and suck out enough blood for her husband to set his seal.

Michael Gove is a rare beast in modern politics: he has a philosophy and expresses it with conviction. And he doesn’t merely express it; he formulates radical policy and transforms his departments of state with revolutionary zeal. He revels in smashing otiose, feeble and flawed systems in the firm belief that something better will emerge. And he does so with frequent appeals to the philosophies of Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Paine, Michael Oakeshott and John Stuart Mill. To these he adds Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, David Hume and James Monboddo – the founders of the Scottish Enlightenment ideal of the Democratic Intellect, which underpins everything he argues for. He is a true liberal – a Whig – contending against those same vested ‘elite’ Tory interests which so preoccupied Margaret Thatcher, and which ultimately brought her down.

As Education Secretary, Michael Gove was concerned to ensure that all children, from whatever background, might receive a good education at the right school for each, and that all schools should be fit for purpose in order that children might become rounded, whole and active citizens and live a virtuous life. He wanted ignorance banished, genius recognised, industry rewarded and for common sense to prevail. For him, it is the democratically expressed feelings of free citizens which smashes the bureaucratic control and establishment power of the elites. It is Burkean “little platoons” which most effectively contend against the immovable, aloof, privileged and unaccountable establishment ‘blob’.

The Gove vision of government is one that is meritocratic – by those who know how, rather than those who inherit – and it is free and adequate education which liberates the potential of the individual to participate in society. Mindful of his own upbringing – through adoption and economic disadvantage – Gove’s philosophy is inextricably fused with themes of social justice. It is not that parents, headteachers and school sponsors become unrestricted and that central government has no role; it is that government intervenes only in proportion to the necessity to limit social injustice, hence his vision to replicate the ethos of the private school in public education, because the entire history of education has pitched a privileged elite against the masses.

Michael Gove doesn’t want to climb the greasy pole for personal gain; nor does he want power for its own sake. He wants democracy, individual freedom and organic fraternity. He wants universal equality of opportunity and for citizens to be sufficiently educated to make informed choices in order to seize life’s opportunities. It is, for him, a theological mission in the emancipatory tradition of ecclesial communities in pursuit of justice: he is a liberation theologian. It is why he embraced and implemented more ‘Big Society’ localism than Cameron ever did. It is why he devolved power from local authorities to headteachers, and why he is now devolving power from the Department of Justice to prison governors. Gove trusts the knowledge of professionals and the instincts of the people: he is a Whiggish devolver of power. Cameron knows what is best: he is a Tory centraliser of power. There is in this tension the ages-old ‘split’ within the Conservative Party, which has historically morphed its political character to the philosophy of its leader. Cameron’s patronising paternalism is not Gove’s inheritance. Both may cry freedom, but only Gove has the disposition to cultivate the agency, and only he has the patience to brook the vicissitudes of personal autonomy and hold conversations with cooperative agents. In his own words from a 2013 speech to the Social Market Foundation:

I began tonight by arguing that for those of us who are political progressives it is also necessary to be educational conservatives. And there is a sense in which all great education has a conservative element – we wish to pass on – protected and if possible enhanced – the whole repertoire of human accomplishment to our children. But while I am proud in many ways to be a conservative I think – in a spirit of proper candour – that I should actually come out and accept that this Government’s educational philosophy is not really conservative at all – but rather uncompromisingly radical. Because conservatives have always tended to suspect that many of the things which need to be protected from generation to generation – the Royal Opera House, the House of Lords, the Bar, Oxford High Table, agreeable homes with lovely views over the Downs, marriage, the bench of bishops, Lord Lieutenancies and Tate Gallery directorships – can only be protected if they’re enjoyed by a minority. I don’t look at the world that way. I think the things we need to protect and enhance – a love of literature, pride in our history, scientific curiosity, beautiful written English, innovative and creative mathematical thinking, joy in discovery, colleges and universities, liberal learning and openness to the world, female emancipation and social mobility – are all better protected if we make them as universal as possible.

The bureaucratic elite of the European Union embodies everything that Michael Gove detests. It is illiberal, interfering, anti-democratic, centralising and inefficient. It is not organic and diffuse, but engineered and coercive. Gove yearns for diversity, competition, liberty, accountability, transparency and choice in a system where iron sharpens iron. The EU pursues uniformity and corporatism in a system which smothers innovation, oppresses the poor and squanders wealth. It is a chain, a yoke, the meridian ‘blob’, and Michael Gove is approaching the zenith of his system-smashing nonconformity.

  • Inspector General

    He is an honourable man, at a time when honourable men are scarce. Good of you to profile him Cranmer. Well done, Sir!

  • Ian G

    Because he really doesn’t want to be Prime Minister, perhaps he is the best qualified to hold the post.

  • Albert

    As far as I can see, Gove was far better than Cameron was. Cameron is beginning to look like Gordon Brown at the end of the last Labour Government.

    • William Lewis

      Gove was very good.

    • Andy

      Well that’s because Cameron is trying to sell a lie and he knows we know he is.

      • Albert

        He is increasingly reminding me of this speech, particularly from 2.36.

  • He revels in smashing otiose, feeble and flawed systems in the firm belief that something better will emerge. And he does so with frequent appeals to the philosophies of…John Stuart Mill

    Gove and his party, in collaboration with Labour, have comprehensively smashed the Britain of old, with Gove going gooey-eyed over the multiculturalism that, he insists, makes us stronger. But his hero, Mill, warns in Representative Government:

    Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government.

    • Anton

      Yes. Jesus put it in fewer words: A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24).

    • IanCad

      It is always hazardous to quote from such prolific writers a JS Mill. There is always something, somewhere, to trip up on.
      Well spotted Johnny.

  • Royinsouthwest

    <i<“Michael Gove won’t admit it, but tonight’s EU debate is his first audition for the Tory leadership,” wrote Asa Bennett in the Telegraph.

    That attitude seems absolutely typical of professional commentators in the media. Everything is viewed from the point of view of party politics and jostling for position within parties. The EU Referendum is almost infinitely more important than the question of who will be the next leader of the Conservative Party yet some commentators are so stuck in their existing mindset that they judge what is happening by what effect it might have on the futures of Cameron, Boris, Gove, Osborne and May.

    Many journalists and commentators fail to grasp that most of us don’t give a damn about politicians’ careers. It is the future of this country that we care about and so does Gove. Boris Johnson is undoubtedly very ambitious but he also has a deep knowledge and love of history, something that Cameron, Osborne and May show very little sign of although they do have the same personal ambitions.

    It is about time that the professional commentators started concentrating on the big issues involved, of which the economy is only one of several, and of the long term implications for the future of the British people and not the short-to-medium term futures of a handful of politicians.

  • Inspector General

    Rather think a Leave success would make Cameron’s position untenable. So it would be a question of either being thrown out of office, or to resign with as much dignity that can be ascribed to that pigs head abusing lout. The leave campaign ought to make more of that – a sort of double victory…

    • bluedog

      It has always been obvious that a key tactic in the Leave campaign should be the destruction of Cameron’s premiership. Get rid of the leader and the rest is easy. One reads that half, or about 150 Conservative MPs are pro-Brexit. Yet somehow they are too frit to translate that sentiment into the practical application of dumping Cameron. It was left to Nadine Dorries to break cover and publicly announce her position, followed by Sir Bill Cash. As per usual there was no follow through and the majority prefer to react to events rather than to seize the initiative and hold it. A great deal of canvassing must be going on, but as yet there aren’t 50 letters with the 1922 Committee, presumably because there is no prospect of a successful coup. Very sad.

      • Inspector General

        Well, noble hound, Brexit is all at the moment. But the knives will surely be out for our Quisling PM when we have our majority…

        • IanCad

          Not so sure we even need a majority to rid us of Cameron. It is looking like a close run thing. A small victory for the Judas column will not be the end of the matter.

  • Inspector General

    One notes the revolutionary Left are pinning their hopes on the young turning out and doing their bidding. Hah! It’s come to that. They need the unquestioning and malleable minds of the inexperienced and parental home living 18-24 age group to save the day, do they…

  • David

    Michael Gove seems to be a very intelligent and decent man, and as such is infinitely preferable to Cameron who possesses none of those qualities, and is moreover a serial dissembler. I certainly appreciate his strong and capable support for the Leave campaign. However a conservative he is certainly not.
    For I recall his support for attacking the most basic unit of society, namely the marriage of one man and one woman. He gave enthusiast support for changing its legal definition in line with most of the rest of the EU, thus essentially destroying an institution that has served society remarkably well, for millennia.
    His support for multiculturalism is even more incredible in one who describes themselves as a conservative, and yet another example of what can only be described as the very shallow, if fashionable, thinking of herd creatures. Edmund Burke would have great difficulty is seeing Mr Gove as a conservative.

    • Inspector General

      Don’t be too hasty to judge, David. If wanted or indeed still want ministerial responsibility under Cameron, you have to sing the same hymns that blighter likes. Lip Service is everywhere these days, you’ll find…

    • Anton

      One Cabinet Minister (at the time) voted against gay marriage, is a global warming sceptic, and wants us out of the EU: Owen Paterson.

  • chiefofsinners

    Hum.
    Gove’s strength is his weakness and it is his zeal. He pushes ideology beyond the limits of practicality and thereby works his own failure.

    • Inspector General

      No idea what you’re on about…

      • He’s saying he’s a poor politician – politics being the “art of the possible” and all that.

        • Inspector General

          …and Cranmer didn’t really hail the fellow this day…

        • chiefofsinners

          Ah Jack. The only one who understands me…
          Perhaps you would like full time employment interpreting for Mrs Chief?

          • Sputum Flange

            I’d vote for Plug – any of the Bash Street Kids would do better that our current crop of leaders.

    • It’s not a beauty contest! He’s a lot better than Ed ‘Gromit’ Milliband
      I think Mr Gove was in his element reforming the education system. He’s probably also doing well in Justice too.

      • Pubcrawler

        “It’s not a beauty contest!”

        Except it is, ever since Nixon vs Kennedy. If Mr & Mrs Average Voter don’t take to you because you don’t come over well on the goggle-box, you’re toast.

        • IanCad

          I listened to the debate – didn’t watch it. Although I like Gove I was not impressed. Possibly because I am more familiar with the far more sober and articulate American standards of debate.

          • Pubcrawler

            I was stuck in hospital (minor elective surgery, nothing to be concerned about) and have been (blissfully?) shielded from the circus. I’ll see what I can find on catch-up facilities.

          • IanCad

            Best wishes for a speedy recovery Crawly.

          • Sober and articulate american standards of discussion? You jest?

          • IanCad

            No, not at all Marie. The Americans are, generally, far more focused and better prepared than we tend to be over here when attempting debate.
            Briefly; they stick to the point, resist overwrought phrases, and maintain dignity.

          • dannybhoy

            Surely the big problem for the US is that the politicians are abandoning the authority of the Constitution and the independence of the individual States, and trying to -no they are, extending the power and authority of the State? I don’t see much debate going on about that.
            This lady explains the problems..
            https://publiushuldah.wordpress.com/about-1/

          • IanCad

            You won’t see much in the press about it over here, but, on the state level, legislators are acutely conscious of the trespass by the Feds on the Tenth Amendment.
            One of the benefits of a short, written constitution is that, in a lazy afternoon, most of it can be digested.

          • dannybhoy

            Well why is it then Ian, that they’re not making more of a fuss about it? I follow about 4 or 5 blogs, and they’re all talking about Hillary’s misdemeanours, Obama’s executive orders, the Ted Bundy land grab thing -which as I understand it is the Federal government riding roughshod over State assets, the increasing stridency of the LGBT community and transgender rights about access got the toilet facilities of their choice.
            All directly or indirectly backed by your POTUS..
            Yet hardly a squeak from Republican politicians..

          • IanCad

            Forget the politicians, they are regarded with the same disdain as ours. Look at the rise of militias. The rumblings in Northern California and Texas for major changes.
            Look at Trump’s rise. A contented and passive electorate would normally have no truck with his policies.

          • dannybhoy

            Absolutely! I was a distant supporter of the Tea Party, and that came to nothing, but the discontent was there and has as you say been rumbling on. America is a great country with a strong Christian Church, but like Europe political correctness and human rights have effectively silenced sensible debate, and (perhaps intentionally), America is being pushed towards political and social chaos..

          • IanCad

            They are however, in a more fortunate condition than are we. One has to be mighty careful what he says over here. No such constraints in the USA – the First Amendment is imprinted in their minds. Possibly not in the halls of academia though.

          • dannybhoy

            “Possibly because I am more familiar with the far more sober and articulate American standards of discussion.”
            Wot?

          • IanCad

            Yep!

        • IanCad

          I can think of no one who would benefit more from the growing of a beard than Mr Gove.
          I’m sure if someone could show him a Photoshopped picture displaying his manly hirsute fullness he would sprout one before the leadership contest really gets going. That is, if he wants it.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Gordon Brown had a beard. She was called Sarah…

          • IanCad

            I’ve mulled it over for the best part of half a day, but I absolutely don’t get it Mrs P.
            Sarah? – Brown? – beard? – I’m lost.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            A gay man who didn’t want people to know he was gay would sometimes marry a woman or indeed, escort a woman to throw people off the scent. That woman was known as ‘a beard’ – beard in the sense of false beard, a disguise…

          • IanCad

            Just replied to myself. Thanks Mrs P.

          • IanCad

            The things one learns on this blog!

        • Only up to a point, many other factors come into the equation too.

    • dannybhoy

      A comparison with Plug is unfair I think. Personally I always thought I bore more than a passing resemblance to Wilfrid.. But what do looks matter anyway (I keep telling myself.)
      Michael Gove is an idealist and an ideas man, and we need people like that. Leadership is about finding the people with the necessary qualities and abilities and using them to achieve the desired goal. Michael has said he doesn’t want the role of PM, and I would guess that he knows he doesn’t have the necessary qualities and doesn’t want the inevitable stress.

      My wife and I have just returned from our monthly PCC meeting. We know all about these things….. ;0)

  • len

    There seems to be a sinister undercurrent of events happening worldwide and the EU referendum seems to be only part of this. The elites worldwide are getting more brazen and more open in revealing their true intentions and the power behind their actions. Anyone seen anything more bizarre than the opening of ‘the Gotthard Tunnel?’.
    The aims of those behind the Large Hadron Collider and the cost of this project in times of ‘austerity’ are almost beyond belief.
    We live in interesting but dangerous times as the true intentions of those behind the EU become apparent….

  • DanJ0

    I thought Gove came across very well on Peston today.

  • dannybhoy

    There plenty of ‘placemen’ in our political system, but few who serve out of idealism.
    Michael Gove is such. He has character and he has integrity. We need more like him.