Gove reveals plan for profit-making schools

Education Secretary declares that free schools "could" become for-profit.

Michael Gove's appearance at the Leveson inquiry has provided us with a revelation, but not the one you might have expected. For the first time on record, the Education Secretary declared that free schools "could" become for-profit institutions in the second term of a Tory-led government.

Gove told the inquiry:

It's my belief that we could move to that situation but at the moment, it's important to recorgnise that the free schools movement is succeeding without that element and I think we should cross that bridge when we come to it.

He remarked that unlike some of his coalition colleagues, "who are very sceptical of the benefits of profit", he had an "open mind", adding: "I believe that it may be the case that we can augment the quality of state education by extending the range of people involved in its provision."

It's a significant rhetorical shift by Gove. Last September he told the Andrew Marr Show:

Nick (Clegg) and I are completely in agreement on this (banning for-profit free schools). It's not an issue.

The Conservative election manifesto said that we don't need to have profit at the moment, the Liberal Democrat manifesto said that we don't need profit at the moment and we don't.

And here's what Clegg said:

To anyone worried that, by expanding the mix of providers in our education system, we are inching towards inserting the profit motive into our school system, again, let me reassure you. Yes to greater diversity; yes to more choice for parents. But no to running schools for profit, not in our state-funded education sector.

Gove's comments are another example of the growing willingness of the Tories to state how a Conservative government would behave differently from the coalition.

Education Secretary Michael Gove waves to photographers as he arrives at The Royal Courts of Justice to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution