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28 November 2011

Gove ramps up anti-strike rhetoric. But he didn’t always feel this way

The Education Secretary condemns "industrial strife" -- but a photograph shows him on a picket line

By Samira Shackle

The coalition is ramping up the anti-strike rhetoric today, with Michael Gove set to condemn union bosses as “militants, hardliners itching for a fight”. The Education Secretary will deliver a speech in which he will say:

They want families to be inconvenienced. They want mothers to give up a day’s work, or pay for expensive childcare, because schools will be closed. They want teachers and other public sector workers to lose a day’s pay in the run-up to Christmas.

They want scenes of industrial strife on our TV screens; they want to make economic recovery harder; they want to provide a platform for confrontation just when we all need to pull together.

So far, so Tory — but has Gove always felt this way? No, he hasn’t, as a photograph published by the People last March demonstrated. It shows a young Gove on strike as a trainee reporter at a newspaper in Aberdeen, smiling widely as he holds up a sign saying “Official picket, don’t cross”:

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gove strike

Gove, clearly aware that this picture could potentially undermine his anti-union stance, will address it in today’s speech:

I’m speaking out today because I know what it’s like to go on strike because some people at the top of a Union leadership wanted to prove a point.

I lost my job. So did more than one hundred others. I was lucky – young, unmarried, without a mortgage. I got another job soon enough. Many others didn’t. They never worked again in the profession they loved. And the deal we were offered before the strike never improved.

The cynical among us might note that Gove doesn’t exactly look like he’s under duress in the photograph. On a serious note, he clearly hopes to use his own experience to underscore the different between the moderate majority and the militant leadership of the unions. However, given that this strike will include many traditionally non-militant professionals, like headteachers, this might not stick.