Gove contradicts Cameron and says Major was "right" on class

The PM's spokesman said "what counts is not where you come from but where you are going", but Gove says: "He's right. It's an inescapable fact."

David Cameron's spokesman brusquely dismissed John Major's comments on social mobility yesterday, declaring that "what counts is not where you come from but where you are going".

Major told a Conservative association dinner in South Norfolk: "In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class. To me from my background, I find that truly shocking."

But in his response to the former PM, Michael Gove struck a markedly different tone, telling The World At One: "He's right. It's an inescapable fact." 

A fact it is, but one that Gove, the adopted son of an Aberdonian fishmonger (he was state-educated before winning a scholarship to the private Robert Gordon's College), is more comfortable acknowledging than Cameron. In that regard, it's worth highlighting a notable passage in Rachel Sylvester's fine column on Major and Cameron today: "To the frustration of other senior Tories, including Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have not done nearly enough since 2010 to counter the prejudice that the Conservatives are on the side of the few rather than the many. Indeed they have reinforced it by cutting the top rate of tax for the wealthiest, a deeply damaging symbolic change, while reducing benefits for the poor."

The Tories' blue collar modernisers were dismayed when the Tories' only response to Ed Miliband's living wage plans was to (falsely) claim that they would increase government borrowing. Robert Halfon (who recently argued on The Staggers in favour an energy windfall tax) warned: "We mustn't make the same mistake the Conservatives made ten years ago in opposing the minimum wage. We mustn’t get ourselves in the position of again being against this. That would be a disaster for the party." 

In a piece for the NS in August, Guy Opperman similarly argued: "Britain is a country in which some workers earn so little that the government has to step in and provide aid. That is the system of tax credits we have; a subsidy by any other name and a £4bn one at that. How and why did we let it become acceptable for a full-time job not to pay enough to live on? The living wage isn’t just a wonkish idea – it’s the political world catching up with many Britons’ reality...It may just be the old socialist in me but when did it become a hindrance rather than a duty for a business to look after its employees?"

Rumours persist that the government will eventually announce plans for a significant increase in the minimum wage, but with the election now less than 18 months away, the Tories are short of time to detoxify their brand.

Education Secretary Michael Gove at the Conservative conference in Manchester last month. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.