Lessons From The Forgetful Mr Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove should go to the top of the class as a first class twit and one with a shockingly bad memory.

Not only does he excel in a dangerous mix of stupidity and arrogance … and has proven himself to be a nasty little man time and time again but he also appears to be afflicted with a bad dose of amnesia.

 Fellow Parliamentarians say they are already concerned that he displays the tendencies of an “extreme zealot” who is simply incapable of listening to an alternative view or opinion, but his forgetfulness could explain his constant see-saw policies and U-turns that cause him to be loathed in equal measure by most of the teaching unions, university students, the Liberal democrats and a large chunk of the public (and you can throw in the Deputy Prime Minister and half the cabinet as well for good measure).

 This week, while he unleashed his latest diatribe on the Muslim communities across the UK about how important it is to teach British values in the classroom, he conveniently overlooked the fact he’d said just the opposite in an article published in The Prospect Magazine on October 27 2007.

 Gove wrote: There is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness. Rather like trying to define leadership, it’s a quality which is best appreciated when demonstrated through action rather than described in the abstract.

 “As a Scot who, like Brown, has made his career in London and whose family are now rooted in England, I feel immensely fortunate to be a citizen of a cosmopolitan state where nationality is defined not by ethnicity but sustained by the subtle interweaving of traditions and given life by a spirit of liberty.

 “Britishness is best understood as an identity shaped by an understanding of the common law, refined by the struggle between the people’s representatives and arbitrary power, rooted in a presumption in favour of individual freedom, enriched by a love of the quirky, local and unique, buttressed by anger at injustice, constantly open to the world and engaged with suffering of others, sustained through adversity by subversive humour and better understood through literature than any other art.

“But if you really want to understand Britishness you need to ask why the British find Tracey Emin loveable, regard Ealing comedies as sacred, look on the world of Wodehouse as a lost Eden, always vote for the underdog on Big Brother, make the landscape the central character in their Sunday evening dramas, respect doctors more than lawyers and venerate their army but have never had a soldier as leader since the Duke of Wellington”.

As someone who still regards myself as a working class Brit raised in the savvy and gritty streets of the North East, I would say Michael Gove is also a pretentious little prat who is about as British as Turtle Soup and Steak Tartin.

And it seems I’m not alone – just check the predicted backlash on Twitter. Using the hashtag #BritishValues there were some belters such as that served up by @StuartBrown who said: “Being wary of foreigners while having a Belgian beer with an Indian curry in your Spanish villa wearing Indonesian clothes.”

And who remembers Prezza? Aka former Deputy PM John Prescott who tweeted:So what are Gove’s #BritishValues? Brief against your colleagues, demoralise teachers and blame others for your mistakes?”

@mrjamesob asked: “Teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, binge drinking, rape culture, victim blaming, casual racism, escalating homophpobia, sexism. #BritishValues?

@britishvalues says: “Pro-life, pro-death penalty, climate change sceptic. Devout Christian and scientist.”

@Majstar7 “Forever complaining about Muslims #britishValues”

@AssedBaig #Britishvalues colonise half the world, murder, steal, rape, torture, bomb some more … and then preach to everyone about human rights.

@MehdirHasan Love the idea, btw, that democracy, freedom and the rule of law are #britishvalues rather than say French, Indian, Canadian or, err, universal.”

 Those last three tweets were offerings from Muslims living in the UK who truly display several of the requirements of what it is to be British … a sense of satire, gallows humour and not taking one’s self too seriously.

 But let me end on the words of German-born philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “Blessed ar the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.”

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