By George Kerevan
Michael Gove is the Scots born cabinet minister who finds himself in charge of schools in England. But what was Gove like in his younger days.
Here George Kerevan takes an offbeat look at what classroom exchanges may have been like.
MASTER: Grove, you boy at the back. You’re Scottish, aren’t you? Scholarship boy from Aberdeen, if I remember correctly? Stand up straight and tell the class what is good and perfect about the meaning of Britishness. And stop sniffing!
GROVE (sniffing): Yes, Sir. Thank you, Master. Being British is above all about playing fair. Like in 1979 when the ungrateful Scots voted by a majority for a devolved assembly. Fortunately, in the spirit of fair play, our wonderful House of Commons set aside this absurd piece of populism in order to protect the pension rights of Labour MPs. That’s what I call fairness, Master.
MASTER: Well done Gove, absolutely correct. Now, who else is there? Ah, the new boy, Tariq. Don’t be a shy foreigner Tariq. Tell us about the British sense of fair play!
TARIQ: Sir, in India in 1857, my ancestors were ungrateful enough to forget the civilising mission of the British and stage the Glorious Revolutio…sorry, Indian Mutiny. The British administration showed the best tradition of British civil service and army fair play by tying my family to the mouths of cannons and blowing then to smithereens, as a punishment for being uncivilised barbarians. (Cheers from the boys.)
MASTER: Quite right, Tariq. Indians have instinctively understood British notions of fair play. Did you boys know that three million Punjabis volunteered to starve themselves to death during World War Two so we could import food to Britain? Of course, there were a few malcontents who insisted on demonstrating to feed Indian babies. Fortunately the RAF was on hand to bomb them (fairly). Now, who else? Ah, Obuku. What have the Kenyans learned about British rules of fair play?
OBUKU: We have learned that the British are prepared to pay compensation for torture, provided enough time goes by. For instance, only last year, the Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed to pay £2,600 each to more than 5,000 survivors of the prison camps the British set up in Kenya during the bloody 1950s anti-colonial uprising. Personally, I think £2,600 is a good settlement for some geriatric black. Just think what the bill would have been for a white? Hooray for William Hague!
MASTER: Now boys, Britishness is also about leading the world to democracy. Britain was the very first country to achieve universal suffrage.
GOVE (hesitantly): I’m sorry, Master, but I’m not sure that is correct. Surely Britain achieved universal adult suffrage (including females) in 1928, the year Bruce Forsyth was born. OK, that’s a long time ago but Bruce is still on television. Countries that passed universal adult suffrage before Britain include Poland, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Finland, Netherlands, and even Ireland. Many countries achieved adult male suffrage before Britain, including the Germans, French, Swiss, Greeks, Belgians, and Swedes. Does that make Europe more democratic that Britain, sir?
MASTER (coughing): Sit down Gove and take 500 lines of “I must not question British superiority”. Let me remind class that Britain abolished suti, the practice of Indian women burning themselves on the death of their husband. We believe in equality.
TARIQ MAJOR: But sir, isn’t true that women in the UK have lower job security and greater pay inequality than those in other developed countries, according to the latest OECD research. This shows the UK ranks 18 of 27 among the main industrial countries, in five areas of “female economic empowerment” including pay, employment and the proportion of women working full-time. British women still earn 15 per cent less per hour than men, a pay gap that costs full-time women over £5,000 a year.
MASTER: Take 1,000 lines, Tariq Major, repeating “I must not question Western superiority, especially if it is male”. Let me remind you boys that you are privileged to be living in the free-est country in the world. Nowhere else could Russian oligarchs, Arabian plutocrats, genocidal African kleptomaniacs or Central Asian billionaire psychopaths buy refuge so cheaply. Gordon Brown introduced Tier 1 visas in 2008 that allow individuals with at least £1m to invest to remain in the UK on a long-term basis. That is why you are here. Be grateful of British freedom. You might be some poor illegal immigrant.
GOVE: Please Sir. What will happen to our freedoms if the Scotch vote to secede? Won’t the Scots starve and be forced to invade Northumbria? Won’t having oil make them poor, like Saudi Arabia. Can they really be that stupid?
MASTER: Sadly, Gove, most peoples are not as sensible as the Brits.