Michael Gove criticism points to future ministerial resignations over cuts

The furore over the release of a list of axed school building schemes this week does not bode well for ministers overseeing departments burdened with huge cuts, one leading public affairs expert argues.

Under fire: Michael Gove
Under fire: Michael Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove has this week been widely attacked for releasing a list of cuts to school buildings, which contained 25 errors.

Jon McLeod, chairman of corporate communications and public affairs at Weber Shandwick, noted that the fierce criticism Gove has faced in communicating the budget cuts suugested some ministers could be forced out after coming under similar pressure.

He said: ‘We have had £6bn of cuts so far and the total required is £86bn from the spending review. Amplify this week's aggro for Gove 14 times and I think we are going to see cuts-related resignations before too long.’

Yesterday Gove was forced to issue his second apology of the week when addressing a Local Government Association (LGA) conference in Bournemouth.

He said: ‘Can I apologise to you, as I apologised to the House of Commons yesterday, for the confusion that arose following my statement about Building Schools for the Future on Monday.’

In the Commons the Education Secretary has said he ‘failed’ and that he apologised ‘unreservedly’ as the person ‘responsible and accountable’.

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive at Mandate Communications, commented: 'The schools announcement has been the coalition's first major failure, and not just because of the mistakes in the published list, inexcusable as those are. The real failure was that the Secretary of State came across as having taken this decision with only accountancy in his head, and no sense at all of any humanity. He also failed the most basic internal communications rule; explain to your own people first or how can you possibly expect them to support you?'

McLeod added: ‘The British tradition in Government of ministers being expected to be omniscient about the work of their department has made a painful cross for Michael Gove to bear. He had no option but to apologise in the way that he did, sufficient or not. The mistake was not to clock early enough the need to go to Parliament to give an account of the issues.’

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