The Guardian reports on what it (somewhat exaggeratedly) terms a “furious row” between business secretary Vince Cable and Michael Gove, the education secretary:
A row has broken out within the coalition over the expansion of faith-based schools, with the business secretary, Vince Cable, writing a furious letter to Michael Gove‘s education department accusing him of flouting the 2010 coalition deal.
Department for Education officials, acting on Gove’s direct orders, had undermined the Liberal Democrat/Conservative deal by intervening to ensure a pair of proposed Catholic schools in Cable’s Twickenham constituency would be able to select almost their entire intake on the basis of religion, Cable complained.
In a brief but irate missive to David Laws, the Lib Dem education minister, copied to the office of party leader Nick Clegg, Cable wrote: “A serious problem has arisen whereby DfE officials, in evidence to a court case, appear to be acting in contradiction to the coalition agreement in relation to faith schools and contrary to the express intention of the Education Act 2011.” He concluded: “Can you intervene with the department to rectify this situation?”
The disagreement centres on a particular case in Cable’s constituency and he wrote as a local MP rather than a minister, but it highlights the tensions between the coalition’s two pivotal education figures. Cable’s department handles higher education while Gove is taking an increasingly centralist approach to shaking up the schools system.
The row began with the decision by Conservative-led Richmond councilto hand £10m of land and assets to the Catholic church to set up two new voluntary-aided religious schools, one primary and one secondary. Such schools, if oversubscribed, can give more than 90% of places to Catholic children, and a local consultation document proposed doing this.
* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.