Michael Gove may be "burning bridges" with forceful approach to reforms

Michael Gove’s belligerent approach in setting out proposed education reforms is appropriate but may alienate allies, public affairs experts have said.

Michael Gove: controversial proposals for education reforms
Michael Gove: controversial proposals for education reforms

The Education Secretary yesterday announced proposals to make state schools more like independent schools, with pupils taking the private school common entrance exam and schools staying open for longer.

He also had to deal with criticism of his decision not to give Ofsted chair and Labour supporter Baroness Morgan a second term.

Westbourne Communications head of comms and former Metro political editor John Higginson said education was the sector with the second strongest unions after transport and a forceful approach was necessary.

"Gove faces a difficult PR job and whatever he does the unions will shout very loud," he said. "Unions know how to get their point across and the secretary of state can’t come across as weak and dithery. You want someone strong and forceful who is not afraid of a fight. You can’t take that approach and make everyone happy but if you look at Gove he’s not blustering."

MHP acting head of public affairs Nick Laitner agreed, but said Gove may have gone too far.

"Michael Gove has learned from Tony Blair that difficult reforms have to be approached on a battle footing," he said. "But in any battle, you need allies, and it seems like the Education Secretary has gone out of his way to burn bridges with the parts of the Labour Party that were on his side – not just Sally Morgan but Andrew Adonis and others. This pointless belligerence will make his reforms harder to achieve in the long run, and he may live to rue his actions of the past few days."

Interel director Lee Whitehill said Gove had made his point well. "However, when even friends such as Matthew Paris worry he may be flying a little too close to the sun then he should take stock and avoid believing his own PR," he added.

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