Stephen Twigg smacks down Gove’s sarcastic letter

5:35 pm - June 19th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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I’m not the biggest fan of Labour’s shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg, but his smackdown of Michael Gove today is brilliant.

To recap, Gove sent a long, sarcastic letter to Stephen Twigg today over this education speech earlier this week.

In the letter, Gove said

I am sure your speech was the result of a well-thought-through reflection on schools policy and all of the above questions were considered, and fully addressed, in preparation for your announcement and so you will be able to reply promptly and put to rest the idea, which more and more people are regrettably succumbing to, that Labour schools policy is a confusing, uncertain and incoherent assemblage of sops to the trades unions and local authorities which reflects poorly on the intellectual rigour and moral courage of the current Labour frontbench in comparison with all previous Oppositions, confirms the risible weakness of the Labour leadership in the face of vested interests, and risks undermining the hard work of all those great teachers who are driving up standards in schools today.

Yes, that’s one sentence, if you can plough through it.

Anyway, Twigg has now responded:

Thank you for your 1300-word letter.

I was very interested to hear, during Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today, the Prime Minister defending the Government’s decision to allow unqualified teachers to teach in classrooms.

I am delighted to see the attention you are paying to Labour party policy but might I suggest focusing more attention on your own policies?

With a primary places crisis, over 5000 unqualified teachers in academies and Free Schools, a fall in the number of apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds, youth unemployment at almost a million, a looming teacher shortage, and a new curriculum rejected by employers and teachers, surely your time would be better spent addressing these issues rather than being a pigeon carrier for Lynton Crosby’s gimmicks?

I fear, however, that you will continue to while away the hours sending letters to me, writing forewords to the Bible and dreaming up new names for GCSEs.


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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

1. Shatterface

This is the most exciting intellectual exchange I’ve seen since the Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper’s debate on the question ‘Are There Philosophical Problems?’ at the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club in 1946.

We are truly privileged to witness this clash of titanic minds.

Please keep us updated.

Twigg says ‘pigeon carrier’ but surely means ‘carrier pigeon’ in the context of his remark. Best stay behind after class.

Of course – he could try answering the questions instead?

Could this sudden flurry of activity from Twigg have anything to do with the rumoured Autumn reshuffle when some of the dead wood will be removed? Twigg’s been next to invisible since his appointment, pretty much like the rest of the Labour front bench.

Smackdown? More like a gentle slap on the cheek with a silk glove.

I’ve seen more vicious ‘smackdowns’ from Liberace, what hallucinatory drugs are you taking Sunny?

@5. The Cricks: “I’ve seen more vicious ‘smackdowns’ from Liberace…”

That was a weak analogy. Liberace delivered some smart stuff: “You can have either the Resurrection or you can have Liberace. But you can’t have both.”

7. Alex Higgins

“…risks undermining the hard work of all those great teachers who are driving up standards in schools today…”

What is frightening about Gove is that he appears to believe that out there somewhere, there really are a large cohort of teachers cheering him on.

He’s a profoundly delusional man.

Two feebles. I’m supposed to feel better about something?

HArdly a smackdown when some Labour MPs and ex-MPs have been tecahing in schools without “qualifications”.

Labour’s education policy truly is worth mocking.

Shatterface – literally laughing out loud. Thank you.

Sunny, I’m surprised you’ve read this little back-and-fourth as a ‘smackdown’ for Twigg. I dislike Gove as much as the next man, but that initial letter totally, thoroughly and completely ripped Labour’s own shaky education policy to shreds. A little immature, maybe, but on this occasion Gove’s decimated the Labour position.

12. David Jackson

This was just Twigg’s way of avoiding answering any one of the questions asked, something which politicians do constantly and which annoys the hell out of the rest of us.

The day I hear a politician answer a direct question with a direct answer, I shall start to vote again, but until then….

13. Derek Hattons Tailor

The last government staffed many classrooms with unqualified assistants who often had to deliver lessons, what is the difference. The new curriculum has not been rejected by employers, who have been saying for decades that they would prefer to have job applicants who can read, write and count. One of the few good thing the Tories are doing is offering some push back against the risible, failed “progressive education” experiment.

Assuming you support Labour, why would you draw attention to such a lamentable reply? Gove may not be terribly likeable but he is, unusually for an MP, both sane and intelligent. Twigg has no answer to give and his letter is mere waffle.

@ SadButMadLad “Smackdown? More like a gentle slap on the cheek with a silk glove.”

Surely a “silk Gove” (which is how I read it first time).

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