David Blackburn

Background politics

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The Conservatives are at pains to emphasise that 'it's not where you're from but where you're going that's important.' A trite but pertinent phrase: background is neither a pre-requisite nor an impediment to a political career, nor should it be. Upbringing is important when it informs values. Many of the Shadow Cabinet have travelled together from the chapel pews of Eton to the Tory front bench; consequently, the Tories are wary of linking politics to background and experience. On the whole that is sensible, the exception is Michael Gove's personal history, which is central to his Swedish market based education reforms.

Gove may not wish to parade his life before the electorate, but to my mind his desire to extend opportunity and his passion for reform have their genus in his adoptive upbringing and experience of comprehensive education. Too many of his peers will have sunk without trace, that drives Gove. 

I've spent the weekend in a small part of a safe Tory seat, drifting in and out of pubs and cafes canvassing opinion about Gove and the Swedish schools agenda. Even here, deep in rural England, many are ignorant of the policy's intracies, and ignorance breeds suspicion. As one person put it: "A bunch of public school boys trying to force education into the market." Plainly, the message is not getting through. Sell Gove and the Tories can sell their most brilliant policy.