Gove’s a softie

Peter Hitchens’ Mail on Sunday column reads: “My old friend Michael Gove would do well as a professional magician. He is so clever at distracting people that hardly anyone ever notices what he is really doing.

Amid huge clouds of green smoke, and the noise of thunderflashes, he stands there wearing his cruel heavy-rimmed glasses and posing as the nation’s Demon Headmaster.

Teachers supposedly tremble. Badly behaved schoolchildren supposedly bow their heads and learn their times tables, before hurrying to Bible classes.

Actually, they don’t. Mr Gove is not a conservative. In education and other matters, he seeks to follow the (almost wholly useless) agenda of the Blair creature, whom Mr Gove has long admired, almost as much as Wendi Deng, former wife of Rupert Murdoch, admires him.

For Mr Gove, it’s not Mr Blair’s piercing blue eyes or his ‘good legs and butt’ that do the trick. It’s his stylish way with bombers, tanks and troops, plus his agenda of equality, diversity, and bureaucracy.

Back in February 2003, Mr Gove penned a love letter to the then Premier which is almost as embarrassing as Wendi’s girlish jottings.

Beneath the headline ‘I can’t fight my feelings any more: I love Tony’, Mr Gove gushed: ‘All I can say looking at Mr Blair now is, what’s not to like?’

He described Mr Blair as ‘right and brave’ on university fees, ‘impressive’ and ‘braver in some respects than Maggie was’ on Iraq, ‘resolute’ in his stand against strikers, and ‘correct’ on asylum policy.

In fact, he has even been holding meetings with Mr Blair, who is also privately admired by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor (he refers to him as ‘The Master’). His entirely empty row last week over the removal of the Blairite Sally Morgan from the chairmanship of Ofsted is privately described by Tories as what it was – ‘a staged smash-up’.

It is yet another pretext for a fake squabble between Tories and Liberal Democrats, who don’t really disagree but must now pretend to do so to win back lost voters.

As for the schools, they need what they have needed since they were actively ruined by Labour and the Tories between 1965 and 1980. They need the restoration of the authority of teachers, the resumption of tried and effective methods of teaching (especially of reading), and the reintroduction of selection by ability rather than wealth.

As for the opening up of the private sector to state pupils, nothing could be better than the scores of Direct Grant schools that used to do this so well.

They were spitefully destroyed by Labour 40 years ago, and not reinstated during 18 years of Tory rule. But all these things are either illegal or unthinkable in the Blairite universe, with its useless, destructive targets, its incessant tests, its Stalinist inspections, and its stealth selection, available to the wealthy and cunning.

Under the Blair-Gove arrangement, education favours the rich and the sharp-elbowed, and leaves the bright child of a poor home struggling far, far behind.

So instead, Mr Gove makes another speech, about writing lines, or the wonders of traditional history, or the Bible, or whatever it is. And The Guardian newspaper attacks him for it. And nothing happens.

It’s good soap opera. It entertains and diverts. But it is a big fat fake, and if you go on being fooled by it you will get the country you deserve.

►► When will coroners notice the apparent correlation between suicide and ‘antidepressant’ drugs? We will never know if this is significant until it is centrally recorded.

This is very difficult, partly because coroners often don’t ask about it, and also because many suicides are not recorded as such thanks to modern ‘narrative verdicts’.

Read any inquest report carefully, and almost always you will find the dead person was taking these pills, which are known, especially in the US, to carry this risk.
The West Bank needs Scarlett, not dogma

One of my favourite people in the Middle East is a witty and wry Arab citizen of Israel (yes, they do exist and very interesting they are too). On my last visit to Jerusalem, he drove me up to Ramallah through the wearisome security barriers that now divide Israeli territory from the West Bank.

And he sighed: ‘Oh, for the good old days before we had “Peace” .’ What he meant was that, until the world began seeking to solve the Israeli-Arab question, the two peoples lived reasonably happily together.

Arabs worked in Israel, crossing freely backwards and forwards and supporting their families instead of relying on political handouts.

Incredibly, Israelis used to go to Gaza (now behind an impassable barrier) for its beach-front nightlife (now suppressed with Islamic ferocity).

Actually, some of this sensible human pragmatism has recently begun to return. Israeli settlers help Arabs decode the Hebrew labels in a cut-price supermarket on the road to Nablus. Ramallah’s town centre, once gruesomely adorned with the dangling corpses of alleged collaborators, is now a pleasant spot for an evening out. It has a shopping mall with a cinema multiplex, just as Israeli towns do.

This is why I side with Scarlett Johansson, right, and against Oxfam, which has condemned her for promoting an Israeli-owned factory in the West Bank.

She is right. Helping to promote and sustain the normal things of life – work, homes, ordinary pleasure, mutual interdependence – is the road to peace. Oxfam’s dogmatic utopian desires lead to murder and terror. Oxfam was not founded to preach politics, but to relieve hunger. It should go back to doing that, and I for one won’t give it another penny until it does.
BBC ‘neutral’ in bogus war

What should BBC impartiality cover? Is strict neutrality between our (identical) political parties enough? Or should its staff avoid taking sides on other big controversies?

I ask because the Today programme presenter Justin Webb last week wrote a newspaper article on the so-called ‘War on Drugs’, giving full weight to polls and figures which support the view that there is a ‘war’, and that it is failing, and saying, among other things, that ‘on cannabis the game is surely over’.

Funny that he didn’t mention that (for instance) first-time cannabis offenders form a tiny proportion of prisoners in the US, and that the funky American magazine Rolling Stone recently dismissed as a ‘myth’ the claim that the USA’s prisons are full of people convicted for marijuana possession.

I can supply Mr Webb with plenty more information of this sort – if he wants it. But does he?

►► This column’s ‘I told you so’ department would like to point out that a month ago I attacked ‘the grandiose quango called the Environment Agency’, adding: ‘The Agency’s great at issuing statements, but does it do much dredging of ditches and streams?’

Nice the way everyone’s caught up.” (

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