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Gove and Cameron need to start getting into a bit of detail

Posted on 12 February 2011 | 9:02am

Well done to those councils which felt Michael Gove was exceeding his powers when bringing the Building Schools for the Future programme crashing to the ground.

Yesterday’s High Court ruling was a victory for them, and even though Mr Gove retains the ultimate power over which schools get rebuilt, hopefully the powerful slap on the wrist will make him and his colleagues think a little more carefully about policy-making.

There is something a touch cavalier about the way they go about things, and this is but the latest example. On the news last night, its unravelling was followed by something similar in relation to their latest No Mandate offering, the sell-off of our forests.

And of course Mr Gove has already hit troubled waters over the casual scrapping of School Sports funding, and his arbitrary approach to so-called free schools.

There is, as I discovered when I made the jump from the media to the political side of the fence, a world of difference between writing an article on a subject, and devising a policy. Mr Gove seems not yet to appreciate the difference. It is about time he started to, or else even his specially anointed status as a fully fledged Cameroon, close to the leader, will come under pressure.

Of course the chief Cameroon is the problem. As we learned from the NHS reforms, which took him by surprise when health secretary Andrew Lansley presented them, the PM is not one for the policy detail.

But if the minister has a cavalier approach to the policy, and the Prime Minister’s is even more so, then the kind of car crash we had yesterday is likely to become a common happening.

Time for a pep talk for his ministers methinks. He could wheel out the slogan from his famous airbrushed posters. ‘We can’t go on like this.’


    Very interestIng. Gove was on the tv nearly every day and now he seems to have vanished. I agree that the wheels are starting to come off.

  • Sarah Dodds

    They come across as people who rule by divine right, and when that is your attitude you will not worry about little details. When you are as privileged as this lot, I guess you don’t ever having to bother to read the small print.

  • Nicky

    ‘We can’t go on like this.’ Indeed – that phrase should come back to bite them on the collective bum. I get the impression that Cameron and his cohorts had no idea how difficult government was going to be. The superficial ideas, cosy delusions and thinking in soundbites, that coasted them through the years in opposition, look very insubstantial when faced with the actual hard graft of governing.

    The public are losing patience with this government – and (as you point out AC) they don’t have a mandate to do this stuff! The public are feeling increasingly rebellious in the face of the ill-thought out and destructive policies of this govt, and their ‘justification’ for it – witness for example the furious heckling of Francis Maude on Question Time when he trotted out the ‘Labour’s mess’ lie. It’s even more galling when considering how much Brown and Darling did to keep the country solvent in the face of the most disasterous global economic crisis since the 1920s.

  • Dave Simons

    Taking up that last point, and with apologies to Francis Zambon (Sony/ATV Songs LLC, USA, 1969), maybe the problems with the coalition are:

    They’re caught in a trap
    They can’t walk out
    They don’t believe a word each other says
    They can’t go on together
    With suspicious minds.

  • Anonymous

    David Cameron is keen to repeat mantra-like Tony Blair’s wish that he had gone faster and been more radical in the first term. Unlike TB, however, the Cameroons are idealogically driven. Consequently, they have a taste for indecent haste, insufficient scrutiny and scant consultation. Add a generous amount of callousness, mix in lashings of incompetence and there you have it: a recipe that will go down very badly with the judges. Not that that will detain the Cameroons.

    I’ve heard that the political ghost of Michael Howard still stalks the corridors of the Royal Courts of Justice.

    *Note to self. Don’t do comments while watching Lorraine Pascale.

  • Olli Issakainen

    David Cameron claims that his government is centre ground. But neoliberalism is, in fact, a rightwing idea.
    The Tory-led government is about to privatise the entire British state. Even the real aim of the health bill is the privatisation of the NHS.
    Messrs Cameron and Osborne (and Mr Clegg) are on ideological crusade to destroy the welfare state.
    They use lies and fear. Their excuse is “deficit cutting”. But the deficit is lower than in 1945.
    The Tory-led government is not acting in the interests of the majority. Bankers and speculators will benefit.
    Government is implementing a MODEL OF SOCIETY the majority of Britons DID NOT VOTE FOR!
    This is extremist government.
    Huge transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the rich is taking place. New tax proposals for large and medium companies would mean that these corporations will pay nothing at all in UK on money made by their foreign branches.
    Add to this the fall in corporation tax from 28% to 24% by 2014.
    A lot of money is already being funneled through tax havens.
    People who fund the Conservatives and own newspapers are dictating public policy.
    But how does the other half live?
    Austerity starts 6 April. Ordinary people will pay more taxes and national insurance. Tax credits will be lost. 750,000 workers will be pushed to the 40% tax bracket. Some Middle Englanders will be exposed to 83% rate!
    The poor, of course, will be hit hardest.
    Real wages are going down. Wealth gap is going to grow. Living standards will go down.
    The share of national output taken by wages has shrunk from around 60% in 1980 to 53% in 2007. Middle and low earners have felt most of this.
    The proportion of the population working on low pay has almost doubled from 12% in 1977 to over 22% today.
    The proceeds of growth have gone to small financial and business elite.
    But wealth should be distributed fairly.
    And if we do not reform the economy, there will be a new crisis.

  • Nicky

    This is the sort of thing Ed needs to say – excellent piece by Adam Ramsay.

  • Sarah Dodds

    I turn 40 on April 6th. I’ll have to make it one hell of a party.

  • Bev Clack

    Quite right – but it’s encouraging that Maude got heckled on Question Time this week for using the old ‘it’s Labour wot got us into this mess’ line. I think as the cuts bite people will recognise that they are the result of this government’s choices, not the result of necessity.

  • Nicky

    Spot on as ever, Olli. The govt rely on the electorate being too dim to realise that it’s complete BS to say (as Osborne puts it) that they’re paying off the ‘nation’s credit card’. What an insult to our intelligence! Unless Osborne actually thinks that, in which case he would fail a GCSE in Economics. A nation is not like a household economy – and there’s a very good summary of why this is the case on the website False Economy.

    The real agenda, of course, is to bolster the fortunes of the very rich at the expense of everyone else – as well as scapegoating Labour for the austerity measures.

    As Baldric would say, that’s their cunning plan.

    It’s not working.

  • i completely agree, they do have a cavalier attitude in implementing their policies, they are rushing so many things through without proper care and planning, even norman tebbit and nigel lawson are casting doubts on the tory-led governments NHS reforms, personally i also dont think they will work, seeming as they are sacking thousands of managers and getting rid of the much needed targets, who on earth thinks that a £110 billion pound industry dosent need a lot of managers must be crazy, or just not care (they’re probably both), and also without the targets, standards will drop for sure, and also not forgetting that the NHS will not get a ‘real’ terms rise for the next 4 and a half years, it will be a terrible shame to watch it’s decline, and going back to alastairs main point in his article, gove seems to be quite bad at planning, we all saw his big u-turn on the sports funding, and also rattling on about free schools, who on earth would want their kids to go to one of them, all free schools mean is that tories in the community will run them, the standards will be poor, and also their hasnt been lots of info on them, do the teachers have to be fully qualified?, if not then it will be a bog standard education to say the least, also if parents start sending their children to free schools then surely the local school that has been their for years would close down, but of course the tories dont care about that, all they care about is the brightest kids and the one’s with the best background, which is probably the only type of kids that will be allowed in these schools by addmission, and they will think to hell with the struggling kids who have a bad homelife and struggle with their work, we might have paid the deficit off in 4 and a half years but what type of country will we have become….

  • Ehtch

    More detail?!? Are they capable of it?

    They seem like a bunch of blokes running a village footie team, not the country, in their pracising amateur ways.