Notes From the Margins…

Michael Gove and Sally Morgan: Alien versus Predator

  • February 03, 2014
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To say that I don’t hold Education Secretary Michael Gove in high regard would be understating it considerably.   But the ongoing pseudo-row about his refusal   to extend Ofsted chair Sally Morgan’s contract is one thing that I am not going to hold against him or get particularly exercised about.

With an unvarying eye for whipping up storms in teacups that characterizes our woeful political class, Labour and the Lib Dems appear to be intent   on transforming   ‘Baroness Morgan of Huyton’ into   the victim of a politically-inspired Tory purge of the nation’s public institutions,   and have accused Gove of removing Morgan in order to replace her with a Tory.

Well sorry if I don’t give a damn.   Firstly, because I regard Ofsted itself as a uniquely hateful institution which has contributed nothing to education, except to terrorise   teachers into a state of demoralisation and act as a battering ram for privatisation.

I loathe its philistine utilitarianism, its meaningless league tables, its vacuous ‘standards’, and the punitive and inquisitorial powers that it has acquired.     It was only two years ago that it reared its ugly head in my own town and savaged the local comprehensive   which my daughter goes to,   on the basis of the new data targets introduced by Gove and his hitman Michael Wilshaw.

Incredibly, the school was threatened with the dread category of ‘special measures’ even before the inspectors had seen it,   on the basis of these figures.       So the question of whether Ofsted is run by Tory political appointees is not, to my mind, the most burning issue concerning an organization that I would love to see tossed onto the garbage heap of history.

And then there is the question of the ‘Baroness’ herself, whose illustrious career is worth recapping.     As Blair’s ‘Director of Government Relations’ Morgan played a major role in the political preparations for the Iraq war.   She was one of the recipients of the ‘Downing Street memo’ who were informed that the ‘intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’

Morgan also did some fixing herself.     Together with another Blair apparatchik Lord Falconer, she is alleged to have exerted major pressure on the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith into suppressing his own reservations about the legality of the war.

Since then, like all Blair’s cronies, Morgan has done well, very well in fact.   First there was the 2001 peerage (what was that about political appointees?).       Then there was an ‘executive directorship’ of Carphone Warehouse worth £59,000 a year, another £45,000 as a director with Southern Cross Healthcare, Britain’s largest private healthcare company, and £25,000 for sitting on Lloyds Pharmacy’s health care advisory panel.

Like so many members of Blair’s crazy gang, the more you have, they more you need.         Between 2005-2009 Morgan claimed   parliamentary expenses of £38, 370 on the £1.1m Wandsworth house that she and her husband own, where she stays ‘for the purpose of attending sittings of the House.’

Morgan lists her main home in Hampshire, which enabled her to claim the £174 a night   which peers can claim when they stay in a London flat or a hotel, even though she was staying in her own house, in addition to £22, 975 in ‘subsistence expenses.’

But Morgan really was perfect Ofsted material.     Both her kids went to private school.       She is an advisor to the Ark charity, which runs some 12 academies – a role that led to suggests of a conflict of interest when she first got the Ofsted gig in 2011.     Well that’s not a conflict that would bother Gove, especially since Morgan is also an advisor to the New Schools Network,   which promotes free schools.

The Baroness is clearly singing from Gove’s hymn-sheet.       After all this was a woman who last year said that children should be able to go to school from the age of two or three – a recommendation that she called a ‘ big bold brave move’ that would counteract ‘generational disadvantage and poor social skills.’

Two years old readers.     What a time the kids of the future will have if these lunatic schemes go ahead, and the way things are going there is nothing to think that they won’t.

So really whether Morgan is a Tory or Labour appointee is kind of irrelevant.     And yet despite all this,   it seems, we are now expected to regard Morgan as a victim and her sacking as a cause celebre.       The one time geography teacher-turned- propagandist-turned Baroness   has described herself as ‘ the latest of a fairly long list of people now who are non-Conservative supporters who are not being re-appointed. I think there is absolutely a pattern. It’s extremely worrying.’

Yes really.   Its positively worse than McCarthyism.   Or Dreyfus.

Except that it isn’t.     And what is really worrying is that someone like Morgan ever got to rise so far in the party that Keir Hardie once founded,   and that there are so many people just like her.



  1. Paul Seligman (@PaulMSeligman)

    3rd Feb 2014 - 1:15 pm

    I’m not close enough to today’s education system to know whether Ofsted does its job well, indifferently or badly.

    However, I am 100% for the principle of inspections (or audits), standards, scores, accontability and transparency for all institutions and organisations, private and public.

    Ofsted’s mission is valid and valuable.

    • Matt

      3rd Feb 2014 - 3:57 pm

      If you aren’t close enough to know whether it does its job well, indifferently or badly, how can you be sure whether its mission is ‘valid and valuable?’ I am not opposed to inspections either, but the inspection process does not need to be punitive and inquisitorial, or as politically-motivated and destructive as Ofsted has made it. I’ve seen that destruction at first hand, and heard many similar stories from across the country, about the idiocy and ignorance of its inspectors, and the horrendous way that they impose the government’s latest prescriptions on teachers who already have a difficult enough job to do – a job that I suspect many inspectors and the politicians who back them would be incapable of doing.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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