In The Iron Lady there is a moment when Margaret Thatcher (as played by Meryl Streep) decides that she is going to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party. If none of her colleagues has the gumption to do what needs doing, then she will do it.
Can Michael Gove ever imagine himself making such a decision? Will he run at some point?
Illustration by Michael Daley
"No, I'm constitutionally incapable of it. There's a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don't have it. There's an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it's better not to try."
It looks as though the Iron Laddie is not for turning. His growing band of supporters will have to apply a lot of pressure when the moment comes.
A little over a year ago it would have seemed rather outlandish, or at least very premature, to ask the Education Secretary questions about his leadership prospects. He didn't have any. Then, he was one of the coalition's earliest casualties and his friends feared for his future. An opening bombardment by the pugilistic Ed Balls, Labour's shadow education spokesman immediately after the 2010 general election, had done Gove considerable damage. His department (which under Labour had sprawled to cover children, schools and families until Gove restored its title and focus on education) was notoriously nightmarish to manage. Many Department for Education (DfE) officials are not naturally sympathetic to his worldview and some were alleged to have exposed him to ridicule.
Gove compares it, tongue in cheek, to being first ashore on D-Day. He cites his famous fellow-Scot Lord Lovat and his piper on June 6, 1944:
"Ed Balls had rigged the explosive devices on the beach. So he knew that the moment we arrived there were certain things that were going to explode. He had ramped up spending in some areas that we were going to have to pull back on, and he knew that when we did there would be a media storm."
But Gove, with difficulty, withstood the heavy fire coming from Labour. "If you're first ashore, you're also first up onto the cliffs and then out into open country."
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