Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Michael Gove: Five things I have learned

Michael Gove at a school science lesson
Mr Gove says everyone should make time for books

In the first of our new occasional series, shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families, Michael Gove, tells of five of the most important things he has learned in his life.


Name: Michael Gove

Born: August 1967, Edinburgh

Occupation: Conservative MP for Surrey Heath, elected in May 2005, shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families and also a journalist. He has worked on local and national newspapers including the The Times, radio and TV. He is a former chairman of Policy Exchange, a centre-right think-tank.

Lives: in London.

Family life: Married to Sarah Vine, a leader writer at The Times. They have a daughter and a son.

Educated: in England and Scotland, in the state and independent sectors, then at Oxford University (English, Lady Margaret Hall).

Unusual fact: He has appeared in one feature film. He played the school chaplain in the family comedy A Feast at Midnight which was released in 1995.

1. You can't spend too much time with your children.

I have a friend who is now an MP who is a father of five and he said to me when I became a father that the speed with which your children's lives flash in front of you is terrifying. You should spend as much time with them as possible. It's enormous fun and so stimulating.

This morning I went in to my children's school for a carol service. It was the most important thing I could make time for.

2. Always make time every day to read a book that has nothing to do with your work.

You can always read another document, something on Google or a bit of Hansard but nothing is better for your mind than taking your mind away by reading fiction or non-fiction. If your brain is constantly engaged by work, it does not really grow.

3. No where in the world is more beautiful than Scotland.

Having travelled the world (though not all of it), notwithstanding the weather, midges and food, Scotland is still the best place to go. I go back as often as I can but not as often as I should.

4. Criticism is a good thing.

If you throw out signals that you find criticism hard to take, that you don't want to hear bad news, then you don't want to learn. Make it clear to people that you want to learn from a mistake. I make mistakes all the time, from my first job as reporter on the Press and Journal when I nearly bankrupted a chicken farm. It's always better to acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.

5. Never judge by first impressions.

Even if you have a strong instinct about someone. It's the car salesman's dictum: you can't tell whether someone is a millionaire or someone who scrubs up well. It's the Henry Crawford principle in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. He is superficial - incredibly charming and captivating, but by the end of the book he is shown to be superficial. The virtues of some characters, such as Edmund Bertram, take more time to show. Give people time.

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