Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg has called for an investigation into a vicious negative briefings from within the Department for Education.
After former education minister Tim Loughton told a committee of MPs that the children and families agenda was a “declining priority” under Michael Gove, the Spectator published a three-paragraph evisceration attributed to a senior DfE source, which concluded:
“Loughton was a lazy incompetent narcissist obsessed only with self-promotion.”
An exchanges on this issue during education questions yesterday left honourable members fearing for Gove’s hearing. Having been asked directly by Twigg whether he would investigate a potential breach of strict rules for special advisers and civil servants, Gove responded by answering a completely different question:
“I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. It gives me an opportunity to affirm the importance of child protection and of ensuring that this Government take all the steps needed to make sure that no child is placed at risk”
Gove continued in this vein — apparently oblivious to heckles of “answer the question”. Twigg has now written to the permanent secretary in the department, Chris Wormald, demanding a probe into the issue.
While Westminster insiders have their strong suspicions as to the provenance of the briefing, SpAds have a track record of getting away with murder. Eric Pickles’ team closed ranks to protect one of their number even after David Cameron was rebuked by the civil service over a DCLG smear in 2010.
Let’s see where this one goes.