It doesn’t really matter whether Dominic Cummings’ Times interview was unhelpful to Michael Gove. Labour has just been about as helpful to the Education Secretary as it possibly could be without announcing that it supports everything he does, right down to the detail of the history curriculum. Education questions this afternoon was the perfect opportunity to exploit the gift of an interview in which Gove’s trusted former adviser attacked David Cameron and the Number 10 operation. But the attack never really came.
Kevin Brennan asked about Cummings’ line that he signed into government departments and Number 10 as ‘Osama bin Laden’. Gove’s reply was, as predicted, ornate and beautifully defensive. Then nothing until late in the session when Lisa Nandy and Karen Buck asked about Cummings’ access to departments.
Instead, Tristram Hunt used his slot in topical questions to ask about the oversight of academies and free schools following the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal. He asked:
‘In 2010, Mr Speaker, the Department for Education was warned of threats to schools in Birmingham. For four years, his department, on his watch, failed to act. The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is now urging the government to provide greater public assurance that all schools in a locality, regardless of their status, discharge the full range of their responsibilities. When will the Secretary of State accept that micromanaging schools from behind a desk in Whitehall doesn’t work and we need a proper system of independent, local accountability?’
‘Well, um, er, Mr Speaker, I suspect that that question will not just be shown on the Parliamentary channel, but also on UKTV Gold, because it’s a magnificent repeat! These were precisely the questions that the honourable gentlemen asked last week in his statement.