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Who do they think they are?

Cynic | 12.02.2011 06:57 | Education | Public sector cuts | World

Michael Gove's reputation as a Mr Bean-style accident-prone bungler can only have been reinforced by the High Court ruling quashing his decision to scrap school building projects.

Gove's dogmatic belief in neoliberalism encourages him to believe that he has no need to win people over to his views or, indeed, even to consult.

The opinion of Mr Justice Holman, in the case of five of six councils that brought the case, is that the Education Secretary's failure was "so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power."

Gove's defence was that he had not taken the decision lightly to drop Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme, which cancelled projects in 700 schools, and that it was not up for legal challenge.

Mr Justice Holman has pointed out the error of his judgement, which could be described as arrogant in the extreme.

Hell may freeze over before Gove takes up shadow education minister Iain Wright's suggestion that the Education Secretary avail himself of the opportunity to apologise to MPs for the shambles that he has created.

And it will be interesting to see whether he returns to the House with plans to reinstate the axed school-building plans or looks to sidestep the ruling.

In any case, Gove's penchant for riding roughshod over opinions that differ from those of the mandate-lacking coalition government is not his alone.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles's decision to issue a publicity code to local authorities that denies them the right to tell the truth about why they are forced to carry out spending cuts comes under the same heading of abuse of power.

Pickles pretends to believe that factual statements such as "the government has cut our money so we are forced to cut services" are politically motivated and a "blatant misuse of public funds."

That description might better and more accurately be applied to the government's own policies.

The coalition has no mandate for its extremist policies such as the savage cuts in spending on the NHS and education in England and broader reductions in finance to local government and the Civil Service.

Before the election, the Liberal Democrats posed as the progressive alternative to Labour and their manifesto mirrored this aspiration.

The Tories were on the back foot, having seen a huge lead in the opinion polls whittled away because of fears that they were still the "nasty party," to use Theresa May's telling phrase.

In consequence, they stressed how much they had changed, how nice they had become and how the NHS would be safe in their hands.

Despite this attempt at a brand change, an overall majority eluded the Tories, offering the Liberal Democrats an opportunity to play at being ministers.

Nick Clegg, who had stressed pre-election that the largest possible total of Liberal Democrat MPs would have a mitigating effect on the extremist tendencies of either major party, suddenly ditched that position.

He authorised Orange Book neoliberal fanatic Danny Alexander to lead his party's team in negotiations with the Tories and, guess what, they came back with a programme that was more right-wing than either of them had presented to the electorate.

That certainly sounds like an abuse of power and it calls for even more politically motivated truth telling alongside industrial and community mobilisation to thwart the government's anti-people policies.

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  1. PFI — inquiry