Cabinet spat sends Prime Minister into bat

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

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David Cameron has wielded the big stick. And not before time.

In the unseemly spat between two senior Cabinet Ministers over “extremism” in British schools, he has compelled Education Secretary Michael Gove to make a grovelling apology and forced Home Secretary Theresa May to dispense with her close political adviser Fiona Cunningham, who was discovered to be responsible for what was described as an “acidic” briefing against Mr Gove.

And, well, I got it all wrong. Here was I, thinking we had two grown-up, sensible ministers, either of whom would be capable of successfully leading the Conservative Party.

But now, I’m seriously beginning to wonder. Was it simply crude ambition that caused these two to indulge in a childish squabble, which then spilled into the open on the very day the Government was announcing its legislative plans for its last year of this Parliament?

It’s hard to think otherwise.

Because don’t be fooled by protests from those speculated about as possible future leaders that they are not interested in the job. Of course they are.

But who wants leaders who can’t be trusted to keep a civil tongue in their head when dealing with their own colleagues?

Both Gove and May have done themselves no favours with this affair.

The Tories are already losing supporters hand over fist as Ukip breathes hotly down their necks.

This latest problem has dismayed many long-serving Conservative activists, who are already regarded as easy prey for Ukip.

As the former Labour Cabinet Minister Peter Hain has said: with more parties now in the field, it is harder than ever for a single party to obtain an outright majority at a general election. So the Tories are on very delicate ground.

Crass behaviour as demonstrated by the Gove-May clash could have very a deleterious outcome for the party.

No wonder Cameron was furious.

Some artists are being doled out taxpayers’ money to be able to “grapple with the concept of thing-ness”. Have you ever heard of such twaddle in your life?