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.

Subscription offer: Get 12 issues for just £12 PLUS a free copy of "The Idea of Justice" by Amartya Sen.

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

Show Hide image

Tony Blair won't endorse the Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn's fans are celebrating

The thrice-elected Prime Minister is no fan of the new Labour leader. 

Labour heavyweights usually support each other - at least in public. But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair couldn't bring himself to do so when asked on Sky News.

He dodged the question of whether the current Labour leader was the best person to lead the country, instead urging voters not to give Theresa May a "blank cheque". 

If this seems shocking, it's worth remembering that Corbyn refused to say whether he would pick "Trotskyism or Blairism" during the Labour leadership campaign. Corbyn was after all behind the Stop the War Coalition, which opposed Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq. 

For some Corbyn supporters, it seems that there couldn't be a greater boon than the thrice-elected PM witholding his endorsement in a critical general election. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

0800 7318496