One story that has gripped the national headlines of late has been the dispute over the non-renewal of Labour Baroness Morgan’s role as Head of Ofsted by Michael Gove.
It is not yet known who will take over the role, but nonetheless a row has still broken out.
Baroness Morgan claims that she was a victim of a ‘determined effort from Number 10’ to appoint more Tories into the top political jobs. From the outside, this may not seem so surprising, given that we have a Liberal-conservative coalition government at this present time.
Another argument that has arisen from this comes from David Laws. He argues that actually, the inspectorate shouldn’t in fact be political at all, as it is supposed to be an independent organisation. He too argues that Baroness Morgan’s removal was politically minded. A source close to him said: “The decision to get rid of Sally Morgan had absolutely nothing to do with her abilities, or even education policy, and everything to do with Michael Gove’s desire to get his own people on board. David Laws is absolutely determined not to let Michael Gove undermine the independence of this vital part of the education system.”
Of course, Michael Gove is desperate now to try and defend his decision. He argues that the decision to remove Baroness Morgan was entirely his and had absolutely nothing to do with Number 10. He told the Andrew Marr Show: “I think she’s done a really good job. I think that she and the chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw are a fantastic team. But one of the things I feel – and across government – is that from time to time you need to refresh the person who is in charge of an organisation.”
On top of that, he adds that Baroness Morgan had come to the end of her three-year term as Ofsted chairwoman and it was good corporate practice not to automatically reappoint people – a different person could come in with a “new perspective” and make sure there were “tough questions asked”.
Mr Gove pointed out that he had appointed Baroness Morgan in the first place, knowing she was Labour, adding: “It’s also the case that we’ve recently appointed a former Labour special advisor Simon Stevens to head the NHS. Now when we come to appoint the new head of Ofsted I will appoint, and we will appoint, on merit.”
Here is something that I reckon he’s hoping that we will not notice. One thing he did not do was rule out the possibility of Tory donor Theodore Agnew as the next in line for the job. Of course it would be wrong to rule out a suitable candidate based on their political allegiances, but it does look suspect when a Tory is the only real reported candidate to replace Baroness Morgan. I bet Gove’s hoping that another candidate who isn’t a Tory announces themselves as a candidate to take over.
So what Mr Gove that a former labour special advisor is now the head of the NHS? What about the non-tories who were removed from bodies such as the Arts Council and Charity Commission and replaced with … you guessed it … tories? There is no way of avoiding the fact that it does look very suspect from the outside.
Harriet Harman takes the argument even further. Ms Harman claims that there was a trend that women in senior authoritative posts were losing their positions and being replaced by men. Gove hit back by saying the Tories have had a female prime minister, and had appointed these women to senior positions in the first place, including Baroness Morgan.
I’m all for the idea of Ofsted not being political at all, in fact I think education as a whole should not be political at all. Stories like this for me really provide clear arguments why. Why should a politician decide what the needs for our children are?