On the Politics Show, Sunday 04 May 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Michael Gove, MP
Michael Gove, MP
JON SOPEL: To discuss how far the Conservative Party has to climb to reach government, is the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Michael Gove. Welcome to the Politics Show.
MICHAEL GOVE: Hi, good afternoon.
JON SOPEL: Prediction first, are you going to win.
MICHAEL GOVE: I don't know. We're going to try very hard to win. We're going to make the arguments, which I believe, the people of Crewe want to hear about the changes that we need to make in schools, hospitals and on crime.
I hope that the strong performance that we've had in the local elections, will give us the spring board to victory. But I think that the important thing to do is not to concentrate on making predictions, but to concentrate on making arguments.
JON SOPEL: Okay. But you should win it shouldn't you.
MICHAEL GOVE: Well it's for you and other pundits to decide who should and shouldn't win elections. It's for politicians, people like myself, to explain to people why they should support us.
The important thing about the Crewe by-election is that it provides us with an opportunity to outline our programme, to explain that when it comes for example, to education, that we have an understanding about their concerns. That we have ideas that will improve school discipline, that we will make school choice a reality.
That when it comes to the Health Service, that we're on the side of those professionals who've suffered in the last ten years, who've had their decisions second guessed by the government. The great thing about all elections is that they provide that opportunity for us to discuss issues and then they provide you with an opportunity to act as pundits always do, and then shout the odds and have Jeremy Vine on talking about schools and so on.
JON SOPEL: Let's take it as an absolute given that you'll, you know, you're going to be setting out your arguments and policies and we'll come back to that in a minute.
MICHAEL GOVE: Of course.
JON SOPEL: Wouldn't it be catastrophic for you not to win it, in the sense that you haven't won a by-election for twenty six years.
You know, Labour were piling up big majorities in places like Wirral and mid Staffordshire in the 1990s, which was the sign that actually, it looked like they were on course to win the next General Election in '97. Don't you need to be doing exactly the same thing and Crewe and Nantwich should be a plum ripe for picking.
MICHAEL GOVE: Well Jon, that's exactly the sort of thing that you and other commentators enjoy talking about.
JON SOPEL: I'm just asking you.
MICHAEL GOVE: But as far as I'm concerned, the important thing to do is to concentrate on acknowledging yes, that the public want to know more about the Conservative Party. Harriet Harman quite rightly pointed out earlier, that we're now entering that stage in the life time of this parliament, when people are going to ask about Conservative ideas and they want to know how Conservative ideas will make a difference.
If they believe that our values are right, then they'll come to us. The recent local elections showed that people are profoundly unhappy with the government. They've passed a judgment on Gordon Brown.
They think that he's a salesman who's been passing off dodgy goods for the last eleven years. So what they want to know from us is in greater detail, are the changes that David Cameron has been making to the party, sufficient to give them absolute confidence that we can form a government that's on their side.
JON SOPEL: Okay, we heard a woman in that film there saying, she wouldn't vote Conservative because she was working class. Margaret Thatcher did extremely well appealing to working class voters. Do you think David Cameron, Boris Johnson, George Osborne, all former members of the Bullingdon Drinking Club in Oxford, are going to appeal to working class voters in the same way.
MICHAEL GOVE: Well David Cameron and George Osborne who've been responsible obviously for leading the party for the last couple of years, appealed very successfully to working class voters in Bury and in Sunderland and in London and in Southampton, at the last local elections. I think that the whole idea of looking at politics through the prism of class is completely out-dated.
I mean one of the things that strikes me as odd about the Labour Party under Gordon Brown, is that they've actually moved back in time. That my opposite number, Ed Balls, seems more interested in class war than what goes on in our classrooms. He's the sort of person who's repeated the rhetoric that you used earlier by talking about the Bullingdon Club and all the rest of it.
I think most people, certainly I do, consider that to be irrelevant. I certainly make no judgment about anyone based on where they've come from. And I think that looking at things in that way is old fashioned. In 21st century Britain, people's background is irrelevant. What matters are the ideas that are going to make this country better and stronger.
JON SOPEL: You've acknowledged yourself that you're going to come under much greater scrutiny and it sounds like you welcome the fact that that is going to happen.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes.
JON SOPEL: I'm tempted to say, what is the big idea. Labour, pre '97 when they were coming after a long period in opposition. I mean I think there was going to be devolution, Lord's reform, minimum wage, the New Deal. What equates to that in terms of the Conservative Big Idea, that people will be able to latch on and say, ah, I can see now, there's a big difference.
MICHAEL GOVE: We're going to be on the side of hard working people, who do the right thing and who want better for their family in the future.
JON SOPEL: I've heard Gordon Brown saying exactly that this morning. Saying he's on the side of hard working families.
MICHAEL GOVE: Of course, but the whole point is that they've seen the last eleven years and they've seen how, for example, he's the man who introduced the 10p tax rate then got rid of it, said that it wasn't good enough and he's asking us to believe that he's capable of making the right long term decisions when actually, if you look at what he did on tax, he made a long term decision, then abandoned it, it was a disaster. If you want to talk in detail, for example about education policy, and you've been kind enough to invite me on in the past to do so, I can explain how we will transform schools.
We will ensure that there is genuine choice, that you have different providers who guarantee that individuals will be able to decide whether or not they want a particular type of education for their children. We'll ensure that teachers have the burden of bureaucracy lifted from their shoulders. We'll ensure that children are reading after two years in school, so we end the epidemic of illiteracy, which means that ... (interjection) ... 40% of children leave primary schools ...
MICHAEL GOVE: I thought you wanted scrutiny about our policies.
JON SOPEL: No, no, no. You've pointed out that we have invited you on to discuss this before.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes.
JON SOPEL: And we have discussed this before.
MICHAEL GOVE: Sure.
JON SOPEL: I want to talk about some other specifics maybe.
MICHAEL GOVE: Of course.
JON SOPEL: Okay. What about the 2p addition on fuel duty. Should the government go ahead with that now, given the position of families.
MICHAEL GOVE: Well every tax question has to be looked at through the prism of the fact that the government are re-writing their budget. It would be completely inappropriate for us now to say that we are definitely going to do this or that in terms of tax. (interjection) We're at the stage ...
JON SOPEL: This is coming in this October.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes, exactly.
MICHAEL GOVE: We're at the stage now where we can outline broad themes and we can outline in particular areas how we'd like to reform things in education we have, in health we have, in welfare we have, in prisons we have. You know that delicate questions of the precise tax rate, tax and spending questions like that, have to wait until we've actually seen the books that we inherit. We know for example ... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: ... last October that you were going to cut inheritance tax.
MICHAEL GOVE: Absolutely. There are two specific tax changes that George Osborne has outlined and both of them given people I think a very fair indication of what are values are. We believe for example, on inheritance tax that it's completely unfair that people who aren't millionaires should be punished in that way. We also made a change by making it clear that we would lift stamp duty on those people who want to own their own homes. (interjection) ... work hard and aspirational - we'll support.
JON SOPEL: A quick final thought.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes.
JON SOPEL: Boris Johnson as London Mayor. Is this the laboratory on which we should judge what a Conservative administration should be like.
MICHAEL GOVE: Yes, because Boris, when he talks about crime, when he talks about transport, when he talks about protecting our green spaces and making them safer for families, is absolutely on the button. He is responding to the concerns that I know most voters have.
JON SOPEL: And do you have a slight unease about that.
MICHAEL GOVE: No, absolutely not. I've known Boris for twenty years. I think he's been consistently under-estimated. Because he's got a sense of humour, because he's human, because he's likeable, because he doesn't fit the standard political mold, then I think that people within the political establishment say, ah you know, he's riding for a fall.
Nonsense. He got a million votes on Thursday from people who recognized that his particular combination of serious intellect, but likeability, is something that has been missing in politics for too long and also, he fought a campaign in which his issues, were the issues which dominated the conversation.
JON SOPEL: Michael Gove, I've got to stop you there. Thank you very much for being with us.
MICHAEL GOVE: Not at all. Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL GOVE
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The Politics Show Sunday 11 May 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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