David Laws and Paul Marshall boost Michael Gove’s leadership bid

I’m finally getting round to reading David Laws’ Coalition. I’m getting a very strong impression from Laws’ account of his time as Schools Minister that he found Michael Gove, and in particular his adviser Dominic Cummings, to be pretty exasperating. It was slightly surprising, therefore, to see Laws write a column for the Times (£) basically suggesting that Tory  MPs should keep in Gove in the leadership race.

He goes out of his way to back up Gove’s account of last week’s Boris-related shenanigans, when most of us think that he couldn’t just have decided on the spur of the moment not to back the former Mayor.

So when the justice secretary stunned Westminster by withdrawing his support from Boris last Thursday, he was reasserting his long-standing view of the former London mayor and not displaying some short-term ruthlessness or calculated personal ambition.

I have no doubt that if Mr Osborne were standing in this election, Michael would be supporting him. But backing Boris instead was a bridge too far even for this rather unwilling candidate.

Laws suggests that Gove’s radicalism could be useful:

All Tory leadership candidates now talk about opportunity and social mobility and second chances. Michael actually believes in all this, as he has demonstrated in government. He would be the very opposite of the “steady as she goes” leader. At his best he might offer the social radicalism which our country needs if we are to avoid rising rates of poverty and further declines in social mobility.

It’s not all compliments – he says that Gove is not a team player and that he needs to ditch the aggressive Dominic Cummings if he’s going to get to Number 10 but concludes by saying:

Michael has, though, two cards to play. He would be the candidate who actually believed in the most significant change which our government now has to deliver (Brexit). He is also the candidate who really does believe in the radical change necessary to break open opportunity in our society.

After the shock of the Brexit vote it is clear why some people crave a “steady as she goes” approach.

But it is not obvious that the present challenges facing our country require just “more of the same”.

Laws is now the Executive Chair of the Education Policy Institute, which was formerly Centre Forum. The organisation has now stepped back from politics. It’s funded by hedge fund manager Paul Marshall who co-edited the Orange Book with David Laws.

Marshall also donated a 6-figure sum to Vote Leave and took on a role at the Department of Education during Michael Gove’s tenure. He is a friend of Gove’s and has endorsed him, also on the pages of the Times (£).

I have to say that this all makes me feel very queasy. Vote Leave  was such a toxic, mendacious campaign that I quite seriously don’t think that anyone who fronted it should be in any sort of public office. If someone’s  been at the helm of something that has stoked people’s fears and nurtured prejudices to the extent that the small proportion of its voters who are racists are now emboldened and think that they have 17 million mates, then I really don’t want to see them play any high profile public role.

Gove says the Farage Breaking Point poster made him shudder. So it should. But his organisation sent out a leaflet with an arrow pointing from Turkey to Scotland, clearly implying that 76 million Turkish people would be on their way. That was repeated back to me time and time again by people who were voting Leave because of it. In Scotland we were insulated from the worst of that sort of campaigning (and voted Remain by a significant margin), but it was a different story south of the border.

I find it troubling to see people with connections to this party, past or present, condone that behaviour by boosting Michael Gove’s leadership bid.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I agree Caron. He’s best left at the Ministry of Justice where he is pursuing some radical policies to undo the damage done by Chris Grayling. To be PM he’s far too close to Murdoch and Dacre and undoubtedly one of the strong voices preventing Leveson 2 and the implementation of the new press regulation system that Parliament has approved. He is also probably the strongest apologist in the UK government for the worst excesses of the Israeli government.

  • Peter Davies 6th Jul '16 - 10:34pm

    Of course they may just be being devious and boosting Gove to get Leadsom (the more electable leaver) off the ballot.

    If the most that deviousness can achieve is May as PM you have to wonder “why bother”.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Jul '16 - 1:23am

    I have little faith in Michael Gove. He might care about educational standards, but how can we have good schools with angry, demoralised and striking teachers? At least I can see Jeremy Hunt compromised with the doctors, what compromises did Gove make?

    I know teachers who were concerned about their health due to the stress of the educational reforms. There are still strong feelings on this and politicians probably need to think a bit more before they decide big top down change is the answer.

  • Peter Davies

    I hope your hypothesis is correct as I did consider it a possibility.

    ‘If the most that deviousness can achieve is May as PM you have to wonder “why bother”.’

    It is worth bothering, things are in a bad place and have potential to spiral out of control. In other times the idea of May as PM would make me shudder but at this time she looks like a “least bad” option. I don’t think Tory members would pick Gove but I could see them picking Lesson.

  • *Leadsom

  • Simon McGrath 7th Jul '16 - 8:50am

    which of the candidates should David Laws have said would do the best job?

  • Simon – none of them.

  • I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I see Mr Laws as one of those ‘clever people’ from the metropolitan elite who some were flattered to see joining the Liberal Democrats when it was perceived to be a vehicle capable of delivering them some sort of a political career post 1997 (in Law’s case, Paddy’s old seat in 2001).

    They then tried to impose their right wing laissez-faire views on those of us who had slogged away from the early sixties to get the party into the condition to enable them to have such a career. The very sub title of the Orange Book, “reclaiming Liberalism” implies an invasive intention for their version of late Victorian economics. It all, of course, turned into dust as a result of their actions.

    I’m not in the least surprised Mr Laws is seen to be boosting Gove – and I wouldn’t like to bet on his ultimate political destination. As to feeling queasy, Caron, my own reaction is a step beyond queasy.

    If Theresa May has any sense she will banish the odd and rather strange Mr Gove to the wilderness he deserves.

  • Matt (Bristol) 7th Jul '16 - 9:40am

    It is the empathy between one wing of the party and the radical Post-Thatcherite free-market Tory ‘modernisers’ that makes me feel that the Tory victory in 2015 in fact saved us from a nasty split, which might have happened with, say, 20-30 MPs, but was impractical with 8.

  • David Garlick 7th Jul '16 - 9:43am

    I am never sure that David was a signed up, nailed down liberal but we are a broad church they tell me.

  • Just watched the Andrea Leadsom speech and feel even more queasy.

  • Simon McGrath 7th Jul '16 - 10:12am

    Caron – one of them is going to be PM – seems entirely legitimate for La

  • Simon McGrath 7th Jul '16 - 10:13am

    ws to say that Gove would be the better of the candidates

  • It’s an odd conclusion to come to, and the very close ties to each other makes for difficult digestion…

    I suspect however that there’s currently an Anyone But Leadsom campaign – not without merit. Her speech was just vacuous nonsense. The political equivalent of candyfloss.

    Am I crazy to wish Boris was still in the running?

  • Matt (Bristol) 7th Jul '16 - 11:28am

    I just have this never-ending bafflement and rage looking at the Tories, of why on earth did things get contrived so they became the dominant party of government for the last century?

  • @Matt – Great British values of money, class, intolerance, self interest and incompetence…

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Jul '16 - 11:48am

    Some have spent 15 years arguing that the Lib Dems were the wrong vehicle for market fundamentalism, and that such an agenda would be highly damaging for the Party. It appears that at least Laws and Marshall finally agree.

  • Tony Dawson 7th Jul '16 - 11:51am

    Let us face it, Michael Gove is as ‘radical’ as a sausage roll. And just look at any photograph which you might find of him not wearing a tie and see how uncomfortable he looks.

    Copying the NHS Foundation Trust expansion through expanded Academisation of schools is great for printers providing new stationary to the new organisations but is hardly radically brilliant. Just an overall additional cost to a hard-pressed public purse with the cash taken from others. Gove would appear, from the reports of his in-out support for Boris, to be seriously-affected by control freakery as well as having what some have called ‘political sociopathy’ in that he appears to be clueless over the effect of his actions on people’s perception of himself which is hardly a useful characteristic in a leader. One wonders. seriously, about the judgment of people who would be prepared to give public backing to such a convoluted character.

  • @Paul Pettinger

    I suppose the counter-argument is that liberal economics works very well within the “constraints” or “guidelines” of social liberalism.

    Where the market & competition is guided by ethics and social conscience as much as by profit – there would be less need for protectionism, restrictve legislature and more drive for internationalism.

    But, of course… when we put economics first it destroys us…

  • Mark Blackburn 7th Jul '16 - 1:06pm

    How is that any sort of counter argument @AM? You are describing libertarian economics, not liberal economics. Liberal economics, at least in this context, is based on the tenets of Beveridge and Keynes.

  • Mark Blackburn 7th Jul '16 - 1:22pm

    Sorry @AM, I now see you’re illustrating the potential argument rather than making it

  • Conor McGovern 7th Jul '16 - 2:24pm

    Gove clearly has a vision. He sings the right notes on social justice, opportunity and economic reform, with passion and drive. My problem with Gove is twofold. As a Tory, to what extent can he really achieve reform when he’s so blind to the structural causes of poverty and insecurity, particularly since the rise of Thatcher, his idol? He ultimately believes in a small, centralised state and an untrammelled market, just with a few social initiatives to ease the pain. Secondly, his foreign policy is actually really worrying – pro-US, pro-Israel, fanatically hawkish and very regressive on ‘terror’. I’m yet to discover a bright alternative in the race. May has no vision, Leadsom’s an inexperienced fruit loop and regardless of who the small selectorate pick for us, they’re all Conservatives.

  • David Allen 7th Jul '16 - 3:28pm

    None of them, but, Anyone but Gove.

    Yes, his rigid and idiosyncratic ideology includes a few attractive elements alongside plenty of terrible ones. That’s the nature of an ideologue who always knows what is the right thing to do, remind you of anyone else currrently in the news? If you can’t guess who I’m talking about, Ken Clarke’s remark about Gove “going to war with three countries at once” may help.

  • Matt (Bristol) 7th Jul '16 - 4:46pm

    Well, he’s toast.

    Hope Leadsom isn’t as unreliably erratic as she appears, and that May isn’t as steam-roller-ingly uncompromising as she appears.

    Second female PM, here we come.

  • The issue was all would have been bad domestically, the difference appears to be that May may be the most pragmatic internationally.

    It is a tastiest turd contest but the key hope is to limit the damage of the referendum vote.

    On the domestic front their is little hope from any.

  • @ Tony Dawson “Let us face it, Michael Gove is as ‘radical’ as a sausage roll”

    Personally, I prefer a sausage roll, preferably warm. I note Mikey’s vote dropped by two from the first round.

    My hot tip would be the return of David Davis to the Cabinet. The ice maiden gave him a big hug after her speech. Home Secretary ?

    Be interesting to see if Leadsom’s offshore tax activities get an airing now.

  • Absolutely delighted the new PM will be either May or Leadsom.
    A bonus of the referendum result is a clear out of old Etonions. Snake in the grass, Gove got his just reward and if Hunt and Morgan were to join him in the long grass, that would be the icing on the cake!

  • Denis Loretto 7th Jul '16 - 8:14pm

    @David Raw

    David Davis to head up the brexit negotiation team?

  • Bernard Aris 7th Jul '16 - 8:38pm

    From a foreign perspective (that means, unable to follow all the media Britons have access to), Thatcher wasn’t an old school Tory, so she just created her own clique; this closed, strict mentality was masterfully captured in Hugo Youngs biography title “One of Us”. Pioneering out with a new, radical grouping meant steely discipline every step of the way, so I never saw good, relaxing humour there. And humourless politics in itself irks and provokes people, whatever the ideological bend (including pure opportunism). That is the very last thing a polarised, broken British society needs right now…

    With these two ladies, they feel much more sure of themselves and their achievements, so there is more space for humour, and for openness to other politicians. My vote should go to May; she is like the Dutch VVD immigration secretary Dijkhoff: restrictive, practical and thus popular, across the political aisles.

    And Michael Gove has a lifelong role lined up as Macbeth, spurred on by his wife (to have a new story to fill her column…). Like the American guy starring as Jesus Christ Superstar, he can go on in that role until he is 70; no political faction will trust him after his betrayal of Notting Hill Tory pal Johnson. In Politics he is badly burned toast, tasting foul.

    And Gladstone’s example showed ambitious young politicians (using rotten boroughs to get a start) can grow on to be statesmen reforming, mending electoral law; read Roy Jenkins’ biography. So don’t be too harsh, too definitive about David Laws…

    If you want anybody to distrust how about this one: is it a coincidence that Murdochs son-in-law made a big packet of money on the money market from the Brexit the ever so constructive Murdoch promoted full blast via the Sun?

  • Bernard Aris 7th Jul '16 - 8:58pm

    And talking about the Orang Book, D66 too just went through about 20 years of market-oriented policy making. both VVD and D66 (both liberal parties) got burned, for eaxmple by the fiasco of taxi deregulation (long befor Uber came along).
    Now the goalposts are moving; a quartet of young talents from the D66 talent pool just published a manifesto advocating a more social, softer, more “postmaterialist” tone of D66 politics, and I think that is the attitude needed to calm rattled nerves and re-open broken perspectives, and thus mend the Cosmpolitan-Lower educated, Old-Young, Metropolis-Market town fissures which have opened up in the Netherlands too.

    The surprising thing about the manifesto was the young appealed to the example and line of Jan Terlouw, whose heyday in politics was in 1967-’82 (party leader 1973-’82), when they weren’t even born. It was the time environmental politics got deep roots in D66, and we started talking about euthanasia and the same gay mariage stern Leadsom is now nixing. Terlouw last year adressed our 100 th party conference and he stil can spellbind an audience.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Jul '16 - 9:59pm

    It doesn’t matter a toss in Brexit terms whether it’s May or Leadsom. The EU will not be giving either of them any kind of acceptable deal. All this hot air about free movement is just that. The EU isn’t going to negotiate, it will simply tell us what the deal is. Read article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The real question is what will May or Leadsom do when they finally realise that the best deal we’ll get is the one we’ve already got and are about to throw away?

  • Really Caron, still struggling to accept that Laws is a Tory and that Marshall is not a Liberal, despite all the evidence.

  • Stevan Rose 7th Jul '16 - 10:44pm

    The best job for Gove is to utilise his family background and expertise to renegotiate the future of our fisheries post-CFP. He could best do this from a country that left the EU because of their fisheries interests and who could share their ideas. I would be more than happy to donate to setting up his new office in Greenland so long as he doesn’t come back.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jul '16 - 2:05pm

    Bernard Aris

    And Michael Gove has a lifelong role lined up as Macbeth, spurred on by his wife (to have a new story to fill her column…). Like the American guy starring as Jesus Christ Superstar, he can go on in that role until he is 70; no political faction will trust him after his betrayal of Notting Hill Tory pal Johnson.

    I don’t like Gove’s politics at all, but as a democrat I find comments like the above made about him deeply offensive.

    ANYONE has a right to stand for election, and should not be subject to comments like the above if they decide to exercise that right. Of course, there needs to be a transferrable vote system so the splitting the vote issue does not arise, but there is such a system in the election for the Conservative Party leader, it is not first-past-the-post.

    It was the same with Ed Miliband. He had just as much right to stand for Labour leader as his brother. So why the abuse thrown at him for doing so?

    In a case where X and Y stand for leadership elections, and the press accuses Y of “backstabbing” X or similar, what they mean is that they have decided they want X to be the leader not Y, and they don’t want democracy to challenge that. Who are they to make that decision? X does not have a divine right to be leader. Let the voters decide, and let everyone who wants to be put in front of the voters be regarded as equal until the voters have decided.

    I think there are very good reason for thinking that Boris Johnson would have made a poor leader (I mean reasons from the point of view of the Conservative Party, we who are not in that party may have other reasons), and Gove having worked with him closely would be more aware of them than anyone else. If Gove thought that (and he said he did), and so stood himself as an alternative, it was the right thing to do and he deserves praise for it.

    The bad person is someone who thinks something is wrong, but stays silent and does nothing about it for fear of what would be said about them if they came forward.

  • Am finding all the deeply sexist language around Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom and even Sarah Vine quite tiresome – Ice Maiden. Lady Macbeth. You wouldn’t find men being spoken about in this way.

    Now, I no time for any of these women, but I do think it’s important to watch the way that we talk about them.

  • In the sense that public people are often given nicknames etc, of course men are spoken of like this, Caron – I really do think you have an obsession with this issue. You can hardly describe this as “sexism” in any formal sense, unless you wish to ban same gender comparisons completely?

  • @Tim13, Perhaps you ought to listen and acknowledge how women feel when they see that sort of language being used rather than mansplain to us how we should be feeling.

  • I do think it is important to be aware that Michael Gove received huge public support on Education policy because he was genuinely concerned to raise standards, even though he had no understanding how to do it. Apart from establishing the EEF (Education Endowment Fund) which is already doing some good work to help the disadvantaged, Gove was wrong whenever he meddled in the detail (which he often did). Kenneth Baker, Minister of Education in a previous Conservative government, condemned Gove as not having a clue about how most people can be helped in their learning. I fear we may have more mistaken but well-meant policy from a Conservative government under either May or Andrea.

    Nigel Jones
    Chair, LDEA

  • Caron I wonder what evidence you have that “women feel” in the same way as you do about that, any more than how “men feel” about similar nickname metaphors? In practice, I do listen to what others think about name calling / use of metaphor like this. I was merely calling you out on your description as “sexism”. It weakens your case significantly if you use a catch-all like that about things which aren’t really covered.

    I am not disagreeing that people might not like being called “Ice Maiden”, or being described as having, say “small man syndrome”, but that’s not to say it’s sexist. I also fail to understand your description of “mansplaining” – when I have not remotely said anything that a woman could not very easily have said!

  • Floating Voter 11th Jul '16 - 2:18am

    The word “mansplain” is offemsive and should have no place on thi site.

  • The self-unaware irony in the above remark is so thick that one might almost mistake it for penetrating satire.

  • Caron 10th July ’16 11:33

    “you ought to listen and acknowledge”
    “rather than mansplain”

    Interesting, this sort of thought terminating rhetoric will be used in any discussion on here now even when discussing David Laws and Paul Marshall.

    I note that you ignored that Bernard Aris was attacking Gove (oddly) as “MacBeth” and Sarah Vine was collateral damage; but no, it is all about Sarah Vine…

    As for your suggestion that it is unfair to describe May as “Ice Maiden” it certainly look from my perspective as if May has been cultivating this image among the Tory faithful as they appear to like that in a leader.

    Bernard Aris

    The MacBeth comparison would be more accurately applied to Johnson rather than Gove in terms of behaviour, but as Matthew Hunbach pointed out no one should be criticised for putting themselves forward if they believe they have the best solutions, put people up and let the relevant electorate decide. The fact that Johnson was so easily out played by Gove shows how he would have been defeated in other elections.

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