Peter Hoskin

Gove pushes his agenda

Gove pushes his agenda
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If you can divert your attention away from the Ashes for a second, then I'd recommend you read John Rentoul's fascinating interview with Michael Gove in today's Independent on Sunday.  The two most eye-catching passages concern Gove's "ultra-Blarism" and his thoughts on foreign policy.  The Blairism first:

"And when I ask if it is wise to paint himself as a Blairite, given the former prime minister's latter unpopularity, he says: 'He's not as popular as he deserves to be, and he's emphatically not as popular within Labour as he deserves to be – amazing ingratitude on their part. But if someone were to look at some of the views that I've argued and say, "Tony Blair said that", it would be fatuous of me to deny it, and dishonest, so therefore I may as well acknowledge it because it is true.

'If you take the Blair view on public services reform, and particularly on education, I think it's right, and it is a pity that that trajectory was stopped. If you take the Tony Blair view on foreign policy, in terms of support for democracy abroad, then I certainly agree with that as well, but if you take certain other Blair policies, and Europe is the most conspicuous, then you can say I fall very, very far short of the high standards he set.'" And on foreign policy:

"But what about Cameron's description of himself as 'a liberal conservative, not a neo-conservative'? Gove, who is happy to be called a neo-con, replies: 'Of course, people said, "Ah, that's very different from –". Actually, everything David has said or done on foreign policy, I have thought, "Yes, absolutely". He's given the strongest possible support for our mission in Afghanistan; he's stressed that it needs to be better resourced and with better clarity about what our troops are doing; he's emphasised the fact that Afghanistan is not a discrete conflict but part of a broader struggle against Islamist fundamentalism; and the case he's made has been impeccable.'"

Of course, neither Gove's admiration for the Blairite reform agenda nor his neo-conservatism are great secrets.  But the emphasis he puts on them here is still telling - or perhaps even "mischievous," as Rentoul puts it.  In the aftermath of Osborne's "progressive politics" speech, the references to Blair seem like a further attempt to seize the p-word from Labour, as well as to rile the former PM's opponents in government.  While the endorsement of Tory foreign policy is so keen that it seems to go beyond the usual "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"-style platitudes, and leaves you wondering whether Gove really does agree with the direction of travel, or whether he's trying to present it as more neo-conservative - more Gove-ian - than it actually is.

P.S. Rentoul has a "director's cut" of his interview here.