It wasn`t exactly a JFK moment or an Elvis moment or even a John Lennon moment but the day after Bastille Day 2014 is now carved into memory.
Tuesday morning was always going to be “challenging” as a long scheduled three hour meeting starting at nine would require concentration and the certain need for some agile thinking if I had any hope of a successful outcome. It was the sort of meeting that requires you to switch off your phone. Emerging into the sunshine feeling quietly confident and more that a little smug, I resorted to a nearby hostelry to collect my thoughts over a pint of fine English ale. Finding a seat outside and sparking up a gasper, I switched the phone back on.
A stream of about a dozen text messages broke the peace and quiet of the beer garden. This was most unusual as text messages are rare and are normally confined to simple pleas from the homestead to “buy cat food” or an attempt at further extortion from the tax dodging bandits calling themselves my network provider. The messages were odd, mostly consisting of a single word followed by a number of exclamation marks. “Yay !!!” was followed by “Wow !!!” followed by “Brill !!!” followed by “Yowzer !!!” Some more ambitious contributions managed two words. “Get in” and “At last” and “Thank God” began to offer some clues but only when I realised that the messages were coming mostly from people working in education that an unexpected feeling of joy was beginning to stir deep inside my being. Ignoring the appalling use of English coming from past, current and future Head Teachers, I replied to a trusted contact with the word “Wassup?” The confirmation of hope was almost instantaneous; “Gove sacked !!!”
After a moment of reflective consideration, it required an inordinate amount of self-control to resist pulling my shirt over my head and running around the beer garden with arms outstretched pretending to be an aeroplane. This irrational and vengeful reaction was mercifully quelled and instead I necked the pint and returned to the bar for an unplanned refill.
It is impossible to estimate the damage done to education caused by this pitiful failure of an Education Secretary. After four years of incompetence, intimidation, lies, vanity and sheer malice, the destruction and harm brought about by Gove will take generations to repair. His removal has achieved something that he could never even dream of. Without his malevolent presence, every single school in the country will end the summer term as an improved school.
Later, I discovered that he had not been sacked or even demoted and that his redeployment was essential to bring his skills to another part of government. As a lying, cheating, vindictive and vicious bully, he is perfectly qualified to act as Conservative Chief Whip. Taking a cut in salary might just make Gove realise the true nature of performance related pay. Not that he will notice because every single penny he receives is a penny that is not deserved.
I allowed myself to enjoy a euphoric second pint realising that the satisfaction gleaned from the thought that this pathetic specimen would no longer be allowed near children would be short-lived. Gove might be gone but his poison will linger. The head of Medusa remains dangerous even after being removed from the body.
It seems inconceivable that we have allowed the taste, preference and opinion of a single individual to dictate an entire national curriculum. As this champion of English literature and scholar of history reads the infamous Black Book compiled by party whips to list the indiscretions of MPs in order to maintain control through blackmail, Gove might wish to reflect on a sonnet by Shelley;
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!`
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
Good riddance Gove; your sneer of cold command will not be missed in classrooms and staff rooms. For you, nothing beside remains.