Michael Gove attacks the BBC

Education Secretary uses interview on Today programme to imply that the BBC’s coverage is biased.

They say attack is the best form of defence. It's obviously a mantra that was at the forefront of Michael Gove's mind on this morning's Today programme. In an interview with Sarah Montague, focused mainly on the speed with which the academies programme is being swept through, the Education Secretary took more than a few sideswipes at the BBC.

He started off slowly:

It's understandable also that the Today programme and the Labour Party and others should be obsessed with "processology" . . .

What is striking is that in the course of today [speaking over Sarah Montague] the BBC have not looked at the benefits that academies have brought the very poorest children.

He builds to attacking the interviewer:

MG: It's very revealing of your mindset, Sarah, that you believe that local authorities are the only way to improve schools.
SM [speaking over]: That is not my mindset.

He gets more explicit as his (repeated) errors on the Building Schools for the Future project are flagged up:

One of the striking things about the Building Schools for the Future project -- again, I don't think reported properly by the BBC -- is the way in which it, for example, when a school was being rebuilt, specified in absurd detail the size of cycle rack or the types of plants.

Once he's found a theme, he runs with it:

I thought it was important that we had some facts in the interview, and I thought it was important that we pointed out -- as the BBC has failed to do -- that in a normal construction project . . . [initial costs are lower].

And -- building to a final crescendo:

I believe in value for money. It is maybe a concept that was alien to the last government and it may not be a concept that the BBC would like to see applied to public expenditure, but I believe that it is important that the taxpayer gets protection for the money that it spent on his or her behalf.

He spent so long going on the offensive that he neglected to mount much defence of the academies policy itself (except to say that "It was in our manifesto, so there's no need for proper scrutiny now"). But it is entirely possible that that was the plan.

Gove's line fits neatly with the Conservative narrative that the BBC is biased in favour of the left (an idea that my colleague Mehdi Hasan has argued against). The conflation of "the Today programme" and "the Labour Party" is an example of this victim mentality.

It is quite a clever technique to portray anything that challenges your view as evidence of bias (even if it is just that: a question). But Gove's churlish manner will not have done him any favours. That final -- rather spiteful -- remark is just the latest hint that the BBC is next in line for some painful cuts.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The Future of the Left: trade unions are more important than ever

Trade unions are under threat - and without them, the left has no future. 

Not accepting what you're given, when what you're given isn't enough, is the heart of trade unionism.

Workers having the means to change their lot - by standing together and organising is bread and butter for the labour movement - and the most important part? That 'lightbulb moment' when a group of workers realise they don't have to accept the injustice of their situation and that they have the means to change it.

That's what happened when a group of low-paid hospital workers organised a demonstration outside their hospital last week. As more of their colleagues clocked out and joined them on their picket, thart lightbulb went on.

When they stood together, proudly waving their union flags, singing a rhythmic chant and raising their homemade placards demanding a living wage they knew they had organised the collective strength needed to win.

The GMB union members, predominantly BAME women, work for Aramark, an American multinational outsourcing provider. They are hostesses and domestics in the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, a mental health trust with sites across south London.

Like the nurses and doctors, they work around vulnerable patients and are subject to verbal and in some cases physical abuse. Unlike the nurses and doctors their pay is determined by the private contractor that employs them - for many of these staff that means statutory sick pay, statutory annual leave entitlement and as little as £7.38 per hour.

This is little more than George Osborne's new 'Living Wage' of £7.20 per hour as of April.

But these workers aren't fighting for a living wage set by government or even the Living Wage Foundation - they are fighting for a genuine living wage. The GMB union and Class think tank have calculated that a genuine living wage of £10ph an hour as part of a full time contract removes the need for in work benefits.

As the TUC launches its 'Heart Unions' week of action against the trade union bill today, the Aramark workers will be receiving ballot papers to vote on whether or not they want to strike to win their demands.

These workers are showing exactly why we need to 'Heart Unions' more than ever, because it is the labour movement and workers like these that need to start setting the terms of the real living wage debate. It is campaigns like this, low-paid, in some cases precariously employed and often women workers using their collective strength to make demands on their employer with a strategy for winning those demands that will begin to deliver a genuine living wage.

It is also workers like these that the Trade Union Bill seeks to silence. In many ways it may succeed, but in many other ways workers can still win.

Osborne wants workers to accept what they're given - a living wage on his terms. He wants to stop the women working for Aramark from setting an example to other workers about what can be achieved.

There is no doubting that achieving higher ballot turn outs, restrictions on picket lines and most worryingly the use of agency workers to cover strikers work will make campaigns like these harder. But I refuse to accept they are insurmountable, or that good, solid organisation of working people doesn't have the ability to prevail over even the most authoritarian of legislation.

As the TUC launch their Heart Unions week of action against the bill these women are showing us how the labour movement can reclaim the demands for a genuine living wage. They also send a message to all working people, the message that the Tories fear the most, that collective action can still win and that attempts to silence workers can still be defeated.