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25th Sep 2018
David Cameron has unveiled his most wide-reaching reshuffle of cabinet ministers in what many see as preparation for next year's general election. In moves which have seen big government names ousted from Mr Cameron's cabinet, one that is perhaps drawing the most attention is the demotion of Michael Gove from Education Secretary to Government Chief Whip.
Gove, who is seen as one of the government's most radical reformers, is simultaneously one of the most recognisable faces in Cameron's government and one of the most unpopular. Taking a very direct, hard-nosed and unforgiving approach to reform, Mr Gove alienated teachers with cutting words and breakneck changes to a system guarded by powerful unions.
Teachers, to whom Mr Gove referred to as 'the blob' (after a 1958 horror movie protoplasm-like alien creature), grew to hate the face of change that saw the expansion of academies and free schools in addition to performance-related pay.
Most education secretaries of late have either promoted structural reform or pushed for changes to the national curriculum. However, Gove took the unorthodox approach of taking on both areas simultaneously; during his tenure, he reformed the examination system and curriculum as well as radically altering the administration of schools.
The former Education Secretary, now residing under the title of Chief Whip, is tasked with taking to the airwaves to argue the government's case in addition to more traditional Chief Whip responsibilities, which include ensuring members of the party attend and vote in favour with the party line. The move, which many in the media have branded as a demotion was defended by the prime minister, who cited the importance of the position. "I wanted one of my big hitters, one of my real stars, one of my great brains, someone who has done extraordinary things for education in this country, to do that job, to deliver the government's programme, to help secure the future for our country. I am pleased that he is doing that job. He will do it brilliantly."
Mr Gove, in expressing his disappointment at the relocation noted that it was a "wrench" to part with the education department. He went on to say that whether you call it "demotion, emotion, promotion, locomotion, I don't know how you would describe this move, though move it is, all I would say is that it's a privilege to serve and I'm very, very proud to be part of the team where David Cameron and George Osborne have taken this country from the brink of the economic abyss to a position where we've now got the best growth of any country in the G8." However, Gove-ites were quick to point out that the bulk of his reforms are now in full-swing and irreversible, with the creation of 3,500 academies and 180 free schools since 2010, and a further 200 academies due to open in the next two years.
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