An entirely imaginary world ten years from now…
‘The Murdochian Times’ – Wednesday 25th May 2020
‘Gove lets it all hang free’
After almost ten years in Government, Michael Gove has somehow retained his boyish enthusiasm. Bounding down the stairs of Number 10, the new Prime Minister thrusts out his hand in greeting. His grip is firm and confident. This not a mere man; he is the master of his domain. Gove has shaped the landscape of modern Britain more than any other politician of this age. This is the man, described by Conservative Peer Lord Laws as a “titan and a visionary.”
Famously Gove made his name in the early years of Libertive Government (known then as the Conservative-Liberal Coaliton Government, before the Liberal Democrats became a fully subsumed working committee of the Conservative Party).
He pioneered the idea of ‘free schools’; where the state removed itself from their cumbersome responsibilities of educating all children and instead supported the establishment of profit-making schools. A simple idea which led to the highly controversial ‘schools-revolution’.
Gove speaks fluently and eloquently about the way business has found creative solutions in order to offer new market opportunities for their clients. “Free schools,” he enthuses “have worked a treat. It broke up the ridiculous idea that Government should provide basic services for people as their birth-right. What rot that seems now – so quaint. Can you believe that we used to require schools to actually do their work in school buildings, with fields and the like?”
His face twists and contorts with incredulity as he speaks. It softens as he describes the way businesses have transformed schooling: “Businesses are more innovative, more responsive. I visited a free school, just last week, set up in a disused warehouse. Bit chilly, but when they get the electricity up and running they’ll be able to get 100 children in each class, no problem. Think of the profit-unit ratio.”
The issue of the private sector running schools was once controversial. When free schools were first set up the idea was that they would be run by parents. Gove smiles wistfully as he acknowledges the scrapping of working time regulations, when his predecessor took Britain out of Europe, put a stop to any thought of parents running a school in their spare time. “They won’t have the time, after working a 75 hour week”, he admits “and anyway we are in a big society – big business, big hours, big profits.”
He angrily brushes off the accusation that standards plummeted in free schools. His face reddens as he talks. “Look, we are about diversity of provision in this country. Some schools have low standards, rubbish teachers and poor facilities – others have high standards, excellent teachers and world-beating facilities. That’s diversity. That’s something to be proud of – it’s what make Britain great.”
Comparisons with the Democratic Republic of Scotland – where the state still funds education – draw Gove’s scorn. “Yeah, great schools, but boy you have to pay for them. We’d have to raise the higher rate of tax to 10%, maybe even 15% to pay the bills.” He leans confidently back in his chair and throws up his hands, expressing disbelief: “Don’t forget, not a single school in Scotland makes a profit. Not. A. Single. One. We couldn’t countenance such a thing – schools make profits, just like hospitals and just like the police. Why would we have it any other way?”
This brings us to his stint as Health Secretary where his transforming zeal ripped apart the antiquated concept of providing healthcare for people based on medical need, funded from public contributions. He is proud that every hospital is now a profit-making venture, but his eyes gleam as he describes the way ordinary people have, in his words, ‘stepped up to the surgical plate’: “It’s the epitome of the big society that people now carry out their own minor surgery. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to re-set a fracture. It was like pulling teeth trying to reform the NHS – now it’s easy because people just pull their own. It’s a win-win. We spend less and business makes more.”
With that, he smiles, brings an interview to an end and dashes back up the stairs, plotting the next steps in his big society revolution.