We need to shine a bright light into the dark recesses of Michael Gove’s Department

21st February, 2013 2:32 pm

I’ve been in politics for twenty years, and have seen plenty of rough and tumble. What has been happening in the Department of Education since Michael Gove took over goes much further than that.

The Education Secretary’s closest advisers appear to be acting with complete impunity. Either they have been given carte blanche from their boss to smear and bully those who question his approach, or they are out of control – “feral” in the words of one Liberal Democrat source.

Today’s latest development exposes the behaviour of Dominic Cummings. He wrote an email to the Education Editor of the Independent, Richard Garner. Richard is an experienced journalist who knows the education brief in depth, and is personable and mild mannered.

Cummings is reported to have emailed Richard Garner about a recent piece in the newspaper saying “you should speak to Chris Cook about a good therapist.” This is an extraordinary smear on both Richard Garner and Chris Cook, who works for the Financial Times, and has previously had his mental health questioned by the @toryeducation Twitter account who described him as a ‘Walter Mitty’ figure.  The account, which appears to have close and intimate knowledge of what is happening at the DfE is regularly used to launch personal attacks on people.

This kind of behaviour would be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, and if proven on the face of it the allegations seem serious enough that Dominic Cummings should do the honourable thing and resign, given the clear guidance within the Code. The Code specifically prohibits personal attacks such as these, saying they have no part to play in the role of a special adviser or in public life more generally.

These smears would be worrying on their own. But the trouble is they are not isolated. The Observer has reported on a bullying case involving a senior civil servant at the Department of Education who developed stress and physical health problems as a result of perceived intimidation from both Dominic Cummings and James Frayne, who was until recently the Director of Communications appointed by Michael Gove.

The case resulted in a pay out of around £25,000 to the victim, but the Education Secretary denied all knowledge of the case when I asked him about inappropriate behaviour amongst his advisers. This seems incredible given the case involved two of his closest aides.

Both Cummings and Frayne set up a think tank before joining Government, called the New Frontiers Foundation where they argued that there should be a widespread purge of independent civil servants. They worked closely with Bain & Company, the US management consultancy linked to Mitt Romney which has been appointed to drive through a restructure of the department which will result in 1,000 people losing their jobs.

Given the discipline of advisers is the personal responsibility of the Secretary of State, I believe it is high time the Education Select Committee was able to question both the Education Secretary and his special advisers so we can get to the bottom of exactly what is going on.

These cases speak to the ideological extremism that is currently plaguing the Department of Education. That can’t be in the interests of sound education policy or improving our schools.

We need to shine a bright light into the dark recesses of the Department, and find out exactly what has been happening since Michael Gove came to office.

Ian Mearns is the Labour MP for Gateshead and a Member of the Education Select Committee

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Daniel Speight

    Maybe we still need to find out a bit more about the half-a-million pounds that Gove gave to Rachel Wolf two-and-half years ago after moving into the department. A subject that Guido doesn’t seem to want to expose. What’s that relationship all about I wonder.

Latest

  • Comment Featured Working people are losing their voice: It’s time to bring democratic reform back into the Labour mainstream

    Working people are losing their voice: It’s time to bring democratic reform back into the Labour mainstream

    The vote to leave the European Union was a stark reminder that Labour’s political elites are losing touch with the working class communities the party was founded to represent. Despite the party urging otherwise, the majority of Labour’s heartlands – Britain’s neglected former industrial towns – voted to leave the EU. In many of those places, Labour’s support base has been in decline for some time. There are many explanations for this existential threat to the Labour party. Labour’s inability to address concerns on […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Richard Burgon: In defence of Labour Party members

    Richard Burgon: In defence of Labour Party members

    Abusive and threatening behaviour online and misogyny are serious societal problems that urgently need tackling. The leader of the Labour Party has made it clear that abusive and threatening behaviour, misogynistic or otherwise, is completely unacceptable. Our party has formal disciplinary procedures for members found to be perpetrators of this kind of behaviour. If abusive and threatening behaviour amounts to a criminal act, then those on the receiving end can – and should be encouraged to – report the matter to the police. The leader […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Public prefer Smith to Corbyn for Prime Minister, new poll shows

    Public prefer Smith to Corbyn for Prime Minister, new poll shows

    Owen Smith would make a better choice Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn, according to a new poll. More than half – 57 per cent – of people prefer Smith, while only 43 per cent backed Corbyn, the survey of voters from across the general public reveals. Voters were also asked who they would prefer to see as Labour leader, which inspired exactly the same result. The Evening Standard/BMG poll is the latest in a series raising questions about Labour’s popularity with […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured High Court’s Corbyn ruling has staved off a fresh Labour crisis – but this row was a problem of the party’s own making

    High Court’s Corbyn ruling has staved off a fresh Labour crisis – but this row was a problem of the party’s own making

    The Labour Party can now release a collective sigh of relief. It’s hard to conceive how much worse Labour’s current internal warring could be, but those limits of imagination would have been robustly tested had the High Court ruled against the NEC’s decision to put Corbyn on the leadership ballot automatically. Calling it a factional dispute would not even begin to cover the scale of the prospective horror show. The party’s rules about whether or not an incumbent leader needs […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn confirmed on the ballot as judge rejects challenge

    Corbyn confirmed on the ballot as judge rejects challenge

    Jeremy Corbyn will remain on the leadership ballot, a judge has ruled today. A High Court judge concluded the NEC had been “correct in law” to allow Corbyn to appear on the leadership ballot automatically. The ruling means the incumbent will not now need to gain nominations from 51 MPs and MEPs, as his challenger Owen Smith has done, and the leadership contest will not be restarted. The case, brought by large Labour donor Michael Foster, claimed the NEC decision – made at a marathon […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit