The Week in Review: Gove takes the Michael

There has always been a gulf between how the government of the day is viewed in Westminster and how it is viewed outside.

Nowhere is that chasm more clearly demonstrated than in the case of education secretary Michael Gove.

Inside Westminster he is hailed as a brave reformer with a Thatcherite zeal for change. Countless columns have been penned praising him as a rare shining light in the Conservative party, set to go right to the top.

Outside Westminster, the view is very different. Among teachers, Gove is ridiculed and reviled as a kind of mutant cross between Pob and the Devil.

The reason for this is not only his policies, which are arguably not very different to his predecessors', but his attitude.

Rather than try to bring the teaching profession along with him, Gove has taken a deliberately antagonistic approach. Rather than try to win his opponents over, he has simply labeled them "the blob".

Rarely in British politics has a politician so spectacularly failed to hide his disdain for a profession he is supposed to work with.

Teachers have repaid the compliment, never failing to hide their own disdain for a man many of them see as a pig-headed trouble maker determined not to listen to evidence.

This break-down in relations is now being felt well outside the profession. A poll released this week found that public satisfaction with Gove has reached new lows with almost two-thirds saying he is doing a bad job as education secretary.

Even Conservative supporters have turned against Gove with 40% of their voters from the last election now saying he is doing badly.

This matters in both practical and political terms. It matters in practical terms because it makes it much more difficult for the government to get its school reforms through.

And it matters in political terms because there are now thousands of teachers and their families who may never vote for the Conservative party again.

'So what?' you may say. Surely teachers are just a bunch of left-wing agitators anyway?

Well not quite. In fact, at the last general election, the Conservative party actually held a small opinion poll lead among teachers. Four years later, Gove has turned that lead into a 40% deficit.

If the Tories were cruising to victory, then none of this would matter, but as the result of the Wythenshawe by-election proved this week, that is very far from the case.

In order to win a majority next year, the Tories need to both hold on to their voters from 2010 and win over a whole load of extra voters from the centre. With little more than a year to go until the general election, they are still failing to do either.

No, Osborne, no.

The other area where opinion in Westminster has diverged from the rest of the UK this week is in the Scottish independence debate.

The decision to send George Osborne to take on Alex Salmond was so wrong-headed that it almost suggested the Conservatives were actually trying to lose the independence referendum.

In politics, the messenger is often far more important than the message and Osborne was exactly the wrong messenger to have sent.

Scottish voters do not like to be lectured and they certainly do not like to be lectured by one of the least popular English politicians in the country.

All the polls so far have shown that the 'no' campaign are on course to win the independence referendum, but if that changes, Alex Salmond will have Osborne in large part to thank.

Washed out

The biggest story of the week has undoubtedly been the floods. But I do wonder whether we've got them all a bit out of proportion?

While the floods have undoubtedly been tragic events for all those affected, I do wonder whether we would have seen quite so much blanket press coverage and quite such a panicked reaction from the government, if these floods had taken place in Leeds, rather than say the Thames Valley.