It seems that we were right a few weeks ago to draw attention to the close links between Michael Gove, News International and American-School-Reformer-turned-Murdoch “consigliere” Joel Klein, which we reported on various posts here
Figures released today show the full extent of the government’s links with News International
. Since the general election just over a year ago, George Osborne, who has expressed ”regret” that he encouraged David Cameron to hire Andy Coulson, has had 16 meetings, including 8 with Rebekah Brooks, 4 with James Murdoch and 2 with Rupert Murdoch. David Cameron has 26 meetings.
Osborne may have had more meetings with News International executives but Education Secretary Michael Gove appears to have had more dinners with Rupert Murdoch
. The Education Secretary, a former Times journalist, has notched up 14 meetings with NI over the year. He has met Rebekah Brooks 8 times in the last year – more than the Prime Minister, the Chancellor or the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Gove, who wrote a weekly column for NI from 2005 to 2009 and whose wife has worked for The Times since 1998, had dinner with Rupert Murdoch and “others from NI” as recently as June 26.
Both Osborne and Gove appeared to have kept their figures down by including public meetings that were beyond the formal requirements to register private meetings with proprietors and editors.
A spokesman for Mr Gove said: “He’s known Rupert Murdoch for over a decade. He did not discuss the BSkyB deal with the Murdochs and isn’t at all embarrassed about his meetings, most of which have been about education which is his job.”
One wonders how much education talk can be had with media moguls – it would be interesting to know, in comparison, how many meetings and dinners Gove had with education journalists – without the discussion turning to how Joel Klein’s handling of Murdoch’s ambitious commercial interests in education might be implemented into British schools, especially those, like Free Schools and coalition Charters, which are proudly modelled on the controversial and not overly successful New York Charters pioneered by Mr. Klein.
Critics of the government have claimed that the pace of school reform has been too quick, badly conceived and ill thought through. They may well be wondering, in light of the cosy and seemingly mutually beneficial relationships between Gove and News Corp executives, how much of this was dictated by a genuine zeal to reform state education for the benefit of ordinary children and how much by an agenda planned by Murdoch’s News Corp to start implementing its ideology and commercial interests.
David Cameron’s new rules on transparency were rushed in on the same day as Rebekah Brooks quit, so it would be interesting if a spokesman could answer these questions in order to end any speculation of impropriety in Gove’s dealings with News Corp.