Michael Gove was by far the best Secretary of State in Cameron’s cabinet. It may be – as Alex Wickham cogently argues – a cunning tactical move which makes Gove more powerful than ever. But from an ideological point of view it is a disaster because it cedes to the enemy territory that should never have been surrendered.
In school common rooms all over Britain, chippy, bolshie, workshy teachers are cracking open the rich tea biscuits and cheering Gove’s demise. And they won’t – as I’m sure Gove does because he’s such an arch-loyalist – see it as an ingenious scheme devised by Cameron’s adviser Lynton Crosby to make the Tories more electable. They’ll see it – rightly – as a vindication of their vicious, relentless and very personal campaigning against Gove’s much-needed educational reforms.
Gove’s polling is said to be toxic. Well of course it is. As Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you have stood up for something sometime in your life.” It’s precisely because he’s not afraid to be disliked that Gove has been so effective.
Women are so incredibly shallow and stupid and superficial that they believe top political jobs should be allocated not according to talent but on a gender-based quota system. If this is the inspiring message Cameron is trying to send out to the Sisterhood, then his latest reshuffle is indeed a triumph.
But for conservatism not so much. One of the key distinctions between right and left, surely, is that the right doesn’t play the identity politics game. Conservatism is not about who you are or where you came from but about what you do with your skills. In other words, it’s about meritocracy. There are currently 256 male Conservative MPs and 48 female ones. If you’re going to draw from the smaller talent pool just because it contains lots of breasts and vaginas and handbags why stop there? Paedophiles, for example. They’re not nearly as well-represented as they were, apparently, in the glory days of 1970s politics.
3. Owen Paterson
(Ex-) Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was the other best thing in Cameron’s Cabinet: principled, informed, diligent. At the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Paterson made himself as unpopular as Gove did at the Department of Education. And for the same reasons: both departments are run by green or hard-left ideologues who tried to sabotage their new bosses at every turn.
Paterson’s defenestration offers further depressing proof that Cameron has no appetite for hard battles. Britain is being crippled by misguided environmental policy and Paterson is one of very few conservatives with the knowledge and tenacity to confront the issue. He recognised early on that the flooding which devastated Britain earlier this year was at least partly the result of EU environmental legislation. And he was also brave enough to take the extremely unpopular decision to begin the badger cull, not because he dislikes badgers but because, as a countryman and someone who has thoroughly researched the subject, he understands that it is the only way we’re ever going to rid ourselves of bovine TB.
But instead of backing Paterson, Cameron did what he always does when things turn ugly and threw him to the wolves.