No-one likes a smartass, I know, but it's hard to resist saying it to Nicky Morgan. Her u-turn was very avoidable. It's no good saying "we're changing tack because we're listening to our critics" when you should have listened to them before rushing out that awful White Paper. Some say it's not her fault, that George and Dave needed a rabbit to pull out of the hat on budget day and mass academisation was the rabbit they chose. If so, she can only be seen as a cipher, a hapless drudge to be ordered this way and that by the big boys. She is, of course, Women and Equalities Minister, so no great triumph for her in that role, either. She also made things worse for herself by saying the government had no reverse gear over this policy. Whichever way you look at it, she's lost a lot.
That doesn't mean that the push for full academisation won't continue, of course. The government has allowed itself a lot of leeway to force some LAs to academise all their schools if they are underperforming or if the LA hasn't the capacity to improve its schools. So, easy-peasy, keep cutting LA budgets and sooner than you know it we'll have lots of failing LAs we can then force to academise. But the critics won't pipe down, either, since many good schools will be caught up in this alternative policy, so it's another battle for another day.
And another day will be after 23rd June, which will be a watershed. Can anyone really imagine Morgan staying on as Education Secretary, whatever the outcome? Critics have already noted her many absences from key events, being replaced on the day by the failed grammarian Nick Gibb, whose charisma deficit disqualifies him from the post. Not that that stopped Gove, once tellingly described as looking like a little boy and an old man at the same time.
So who might replace her?
If the Remain squad triumphs (or rather squeaks through) shining stars like Jeremy Hunt or John Whippingdale (no, I know. It's deliberate. Do keep up!) are ripe for a new challenge. They'll need to find someone to put the frighteners back on schools, head and governors. What's Norman Tebbitt doing these days? Or John Redwood?
If Boris and co storm to power, Gove will see Education Secretary as a demotion, not worthy of his valuable expertise, so "The Return of the Gove" is not likely to grace any screens in your area.
Oooh, I know, what about Chris Grayling? Gove has spent the last year or more unpicking all of Grayling's disastrous Justice policies and is bent on turning prisons into the equivalent of academies. Maybe he feels Grayling should go back to school, almost literally?
Or maybe it needs a woman's touch, once more. Priti Patel might be an attractive option, from Boris's point of view...
It doesn't matter, really, does it? Whatever the outcome and whoever replaces the hapless Morgan, academisation will trundle on, LAs will be continue to be underfunded and undermined and full privatisation of the academy sector will just be just a couple of years away.
I find I'm spending more time on my allotment these days and looking at moving to somewhere like Ireland if the EU referendum goes the wrong way. Fortunately, my partner can claim Polish citizenship and so we can remain part of a more enlightened world than the "cake-filled misery-laden grey old island", so accurately described by Emma Thompson, that an isolated England will become.
As Boris himself might say, quoting Cicero: "O tempora! O mores!"
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