Michael Gove - Battling 'The Blob'

Nick Robinson
Political editor


Softly spoken, courteous, academic yet hated by many in the world of education. When market researchers asked former Lib Dem voters what might get them back on side just two words summed up their answers - "Fight Gove".

Why does the Education Secretary Michael Gove now find himself fighting his former top official, Sir David Bell, his Lib Dem deputy David Laws and the chair of Ofsted, Baroness Morgan, who he has not re-appointed to her job?

His explanation is that he is locked in a struggle with "The Blob" - the name he and his allies give to the educational establishment which is inspired by the 1950s film about an amoeba-like alien mass which nothing has been able to stop. Gove sees himself as a revolutionary fighting the Blob's "progressive" grip over teacher training, classroom standards and qualifications.

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Michael Gove saw Sally Morgan as an ally in this fight - even though she is a Labour peer.

He appointed her to chair the schools inspectors organisation Ofsted after admiring her passionate advocacy for the academies created by her old boss Tony Blair.

Now, though, he wants someone even more robust to ensure that the un-blobby chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw challenges what Blair once called "the forces of conservatism". Interestingly, Morgan blamed Number 10 and not Gove for the fact she was not re-appointed.

It was the schools minister, David Laws, who put the education secretary in the cross hairs.

Laws fears that the criticisms of Ofsted by Gove-friendly Tory think-tanks were the precursor to an attack on the organisation's independence. His allies insist that his complaints are less about wooing former Lib Dem voters and more about ensuring that Lib Dem ministers are in future consulted on big public appointments.

As for Sir David Bell's criticisms I suspect that Michael Gove will be thinking "he would say that, wouldn't he - he is part of the Blob".