Private e-mails at the Department for Education

David Hawkins's picture

It looks as though Michael Gove's department is less than transparent in its business.

Do contributors to the LSN have further information that can back-up or add to the stories in the press?
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 16:30

ConservativeHome is strangely quiet on the matter. There's only one link low down (very low down) on its news page. But a Google search on "Gove emails" brings up 65 related news items.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 16:36

It is embarrassing for this so called party of "open government". However the journalist who wrote the story , Christopher Cook, probably one of the most respected education hacks, is now being subject to the usual character assassinations here at the hands of Gove's mates .

Always easier to play the man (or woman) than the ball when losing the arguments...

I thought the Coalition was going to do politics differently!

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 17:02

That's funny. "The slow news day" gambit was used after one of my posts on the free schools thread when I mentioned the recent YouGov poll which showed that 23% of Tory voters who responded to the poll actually opposed the creation of free schools, and 27% were undecided, which shows that a large proportion of the Tory voters who responded are unconvinced by Gove's rhetoric.

Perhaps Toby Young will now scan Christopher Cook's articles very carefully in the hope he can spot a missing comma. If all else fails - fall back on criticising punctuation.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 16:47

Just to make it clear: the Google search on "Gove emails" brought up 65 related news items from the past 24 or so hours, one of which made it on to ConservativeHome. The total number of search results was about 2,790,000,000. Of course, I haven't had time to check them all, but I would have thought ConservativeHome would have realised that the story's creating a lot of interest.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 17:19

trumpeted David Cameron’s “see-through government” agenda, adding that it would “scare every bureaucrat”. 18 months on, it has scared the government itself.

News of secrecy surrounding FoI requests to the DfE is not news to regular users of Local Schools Network, which has highlighted a number of posts and comments from people who have had little joy in getting information about, amongst other things, Funding Agreements for Free Schools. The questions posed by Christopher Cook’s journalism seem to provide some answers to the litany of complaints from MPs and the public as to the inefficiency or obstructiveness of the DfE – perhaps civil servants had their hands tied? Naturally, the Tories are desperately trying to write this off as fodder for slow news day but none of them have actually successfully defended the allegation of wrongdoing. For those of you on Twitter, do please read the increasingly desperate tweets of @toryeducation in his exchanges with Christopher Cook and Andy Burnham.

This whole messy business is another embarrassment for the government and it is a damning second act to the first act farce centring around the leaking of Dominic Cummings’ email calling for "MG telling the civil servants to find a way to give NSN cash without delay." The New Schools Network probably won’t be relishing the daily attention it is getting as it being drawn further into the scandal but their own probity was called into question here when Henry Stewart revealed that its claim of a petition of “thousands” of people asking Mossbourne to et up a new Free School were totally without foundation.

It would be interesting to see what Act Three will bring. Andy Burnham said earlier today that a senior government source said "It is a complete mess and it is going to blow up in our faces."

David Hawkins's picture
Thu, 22/09/2011 - 20:45

I made my post because I thought that the story in the Huffington Post was significant: At least one DfE official allegedly conducted business about school funding through private e-mail accounts. This story was published at the end of August but doesn't seem to have been picked up on by other news outlets. If true it means the defence that private accounts were being used only for party political purposes cannot be sustained.

The LSN could be a forum to bring to light other examples of this happening if it is a widespread practice.

Jake's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 07:59

Has Chris Cook actually published a copy of the alleged email in question? If not then perhaps it might be a good idea because at the moment all we really have is a 'he said, she said' thing. Indeed one might conclude that Sir David Bell is in fact correct that the email related to political matters and so no breach has occured. If this were not the case, then one assumes that Cook would have already published his email to corroborate his initial story. Or are you also accusing the department's Permanent Secretary of a cover up? At the end of the day the Cummings email either relates to political matters or it does not. Anything else is pure spin for the moment and try as the Guardian may this is not exactly Watergate is it? And for those of a left wing persuasion, to now carp on about something like this after what your very own Damien McBride got up to is frankly ludicrous.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 08:05

It’s interesting that the Guardian’s revelation in August about the leaked emails was spun in a Telegraph blog as soooo last year and an attempt by the Guardian to smear Mr Gove on the “eve of free schools triumph” by rehashing an old story concerning cash given to NSN. Funnily enough, the blog didn’t mention the leaked emails even though the word appeared in the Guardian's headline and extracts were quoted in the Guardian's article. An attempt to distract attention, perhaps?

Jake's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 08:29

Janet, you are twisting yourself into knots here in an attempt to spin something out of nothing. These are different alleged emails relating to different matters with precisely none of these emails actually published to date to validate either of the stories. The NSN non-story is indeed a very old matter already dealt with on this site, but for the sake of balance I will link here again to the official letter from the DfE on this. This letter confirms that the appointment of the NSN was perfectly above board and indeed pales into insignificance compared to many of the grants awarded by Labour under the same process.

Try as you all may on this site, at the end of the day you cant polish a turd - there is no story here at all. That said I'm sure Alistair Campbell (Malcolm Tucker?) would be proud of your efforts, a spin doctor who by all accounts made Damien McBride look like a poodle but who made the classic error of becoming 'the story' (which only goes to show his ego got the better of him - which volume of his memoirs will we all be lining his pockets with next I wonder?).

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 10:30

Today’s TES reports that there is a “climate of fear” at the DfE, and the leaked emails in August together with the revelations about use of mobile phones for government business all reveal the same things: contempt for transparency and a disdainful attitude towards civil servants. The leaked August emails didn’t just discuss the NSN but suggested forcing the DfE to focus on particular policies. The two things are connected.

Jake's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 11:07

Janet, I know some of the hacks at TES. Lovely as they are if you sit them down over a long lunch as I have done they will readily admit to a left wing bias. Either you did or you didnt know that, but either way it explains why you always quote TES as the holy grail of all things educational. In reality its like saying the Tea Party are all at heart social democrats. I'd change the record. That Pulitzer still alludes you.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 11:33

The OECD is the "holy grail". Links to TES are merely to give extra information. The full thread re the TES report gives the link to the survey undertaken by the National Audit Office from which the TES accurately quoted. Readers can check the survey against the TES account if there is any doubt. It doesn't matter whether TES "hacks" are politically-biased (or even lovely to sit down with) if they quote accurately from a report which is what they have done on this occasion.

"change the record", "can't polish a turd", "slow news day", "no story here at all", "spin something out of nothing" - I think Jake might be in danger of protesting too much.

Jake's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 11:39

Hardly Janet, I am doing no more than replying to each of your own posts. In terms of how the media works you show a wilful naivety as to why and what actually gets reported.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 12:07

Janet -

It must be difficult for the civil servants to act professionally and with a sense of impartiality if a) they have been unable to deal efficiently and honestly with FoI requests b) some of their members are politically appointed SPADS and c) their work is undermined when they are deliberately kept out of the loop. This is not good government.

Jake's picture
Fri, 23/09/2011 - 12:13

By common consent, Team Blair were the ones who flooded Whitehall with SPADs.

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