#GoGove – A leader for change

Michael Gove is a man who it is hard not to have opinion about and here at Parliament Street, opinions are certainly divided. So for this Monday’s watercooler debate, we are discussing whether Mr. Gove is the standout talent of this government or whether he is simply too clever for his own good.

In this article our Head of Campaigns, Elizabeth Anderson argues that Mr. Gove is an indispensable part of this government and should remain in key player in our public life, going forward.

 

Michael Gove is, without a doubt, a man who gets things done.  To the casual observer, which is all I claim to be in this article, he assesses a situation, spots a need, and pushes change through the legislative system.

His current brief is as Environment Secretary.  With the left wing parties ever keen to claim the moral high ground on environmental and animal welfare related issues, in my opinion Michael Gove has made more positive change in this arena than anyone else in that government post in my lifetime – Conservative or Labour.  Since Mr Gove took up office, we’ve seen action on a range of important areas.
CCTV in slaughterhouses – something which, if there is nothing to hide, was suprisingly difficult to push through until he arrived.  Electric shock collars for dogs, banned.  Sales of puppies in pet shops, banned.  A strict ban on ivory.  A ban on plastic straws in the wake of the Blue Planet documentary series.  A ban on microbeads.  These are only some of his initiatives.

He’s only been in post since 2017.

For a long time, that position seemed to be one of maintaining the status quo.  Visiting the odd farm, talking about rural matters.  There were, of course, some important initatives such as charging for plastic bags, but these went through lengthy discussions and processes.  In comes Mr Gove, action starts.  And not only that, he has made it all right, as a Conservative, to care about animal welfare and the environment.  When I first joined the party, there seemed a rift in my identity – a vegetarian, animal loving, climate change activist who was a Conservative – for those were issues only left wingers cared about.  In the last year, that doesn’t seem so strange that a Conservative can care about green issues.  If anything, surely our values support a long term focus on not damaging the planet.

He may be simply a clever strategist – and simply doing this because he has spotted that the population cares about this stuff, and therefore the government should do something about it.  It may be that he personally cares about these issues himself, and wants to use his position to do something about it.  Both are admirable.  For one, the government is actually in existence to enact the will of the people, not the will of the elite.  And for the other, an ethical man who has strong beliefs and will clamp down on activities which directly harm animals has to be a good man and a strong leader.

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” said Mahatma Gandhi.

Before Environment, he briefly had a shot at Justice, before being cast into the back benches having stood against Theresa May in the party’s 2017 leadership contest.  And before that was his previous major work – on education.  Determined to raise school standards for all, Mr Gove restructured the national curriculum, bringing back a focus on classics, on the history of our country and key principles of mathematics and science.  Surely, by any standard, this is what we should assume all children have the opportunity to learn.  He furthered the Academies programme, as well as adding in Free Schools, Studio Schools and University Technical Colleges – ensuring that there was a wider parental choice, and opportunities for children who either wanted to specialise in specific professions or wanted to take a vocational route over pure academia.
He restructured pay and pensions for teachers, at a time when news was appearing of headteachers earning six figure sums whilst complaining that education budgets were tight.  He went up against the teaching unions, received threats and abuse, and did not relent – because he had a goal to achieve with a true belief that bringing back rigour to teaching was vitally important for social mobility.

After all of this, there are those who still question his ethics.  Some of these people may be on the side of those teachers.  Some are certainly fans of Boris Johnson, who felt let down when Mr Gove realised he did not think Boris had what it took to be Prime Minister.  Some may even still feel that as Conservatives we don’t “do” green issues.But with him, you know what you are getting.  A strong leader, who won’t back down in the face of adversity unless there is a logical, evidence based reason.  And someone who truly does what they believe to be in the best interests of the country, and our role on the world stage.

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