Gove highlights wife's Welsh roots in education row

Michael Gove has tried a new approach in his continuing row with the Welsh government over education standards.

The education secretary tried a "more in sorrow than in anger" tone when facing MPs' questions about his proposed changes to GCSEs in England.

And just to show that it's nothing personal, he reminded the Commons of his wife's Celtic roots - last used to defy accusations of "Cymru-phobia".

"As someone married to a Welsh girl," he said, "it grieves me that the Welsh education system under Labour has gone backwards and it grieves me even more that every objective assessment of what's happened to education in Wales under Labour shows that education in England has improved more quickly and more effectively."

The "Welsh girl" in question is better known as The Times writer, Sarah Vine - but back to the Scottish boy, as she may be tempted to refer to him.

He challenged his Welsh counterpart Leighton Andrews directly: ""I hope that the Education Minister in Wales will embrace the progressive reforms that this coalition government has put forward. There's an opportunity for him now to show that he's ready to operate in a constructive fashion."

Mr Andrews has ordered his own review of qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds and described Mr Gove's proposals as "a backwards step for England to be honest."

The row over education standards appears to be deepening - and widening. Baroness Randerson, the Liberal Democrat Wales Office minister recently appointed to make sure "that London and Cardiff work together for the benefit of children in Wales" may soon have to send for reinforcements.