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Michael Gove Warned Over 'Yes Men' Threat
The Education Secretary risks isolation if he continues to surround himself with "yes men", a former chief Ofsted inspector has warned.
Amid an escalating row over the removal of the Labour peer Baroness Morgan of Huyton as head of the schools' inspectorate, Sir David Bell said Michael Gove should "not believe his own hype".
Sir David, the vice-chancellor at Reading University, wrote on academic website The Conversation: "The day-to-day grind of policy battles, firefighting and political ding-dong can start to cut you off from outside ideas and thinking.
"The row over Ofsted's leadership shows the importance of retaining and being seen to retain independent voices near the top - not simply 'yes men'."
On Sunday, the Lib Dem Schools Minister David Laws accused his boss, Mr Gove, of removing Lady Morgan for political reasons.
Mr Laws said he was furious at what he said were "blatant attempts" by the Conservatives to pack the watchdog with Mr Gove's "own people".
A source close to Mr Laws said: "David is absolutely furious at the blatant attempts by the Tories to politicise Ofsted.
"The decision to get rid of Sally Morgan had absolutely nothing to do with her abilities, or even education policy, and everything to do with Michael Gove's desire to get his own people on board.
"David Laws is absolutely determined not to let Michael undermine the independence of this vital part of the education system.
"David's primary concern now is not to let Conservative game-playing destabilise Ofsted and he'll be working closely with them as Schools Minister to make sure that doesn't happen."
There has been speculation Mr Gove favoured the Tory donor and private equity boss Theodore Agnew for the job, speculation the Education Secretary failed to quash in an interview on Sunday.
"I want to make sure that we have the widest range of candidates and I don't think anyone should be ruled out on the basis of their political allegiance," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.
"If someone is a distinguished former Labour minister and they want to put their hat in the ring, then I would look favourably on that.
"If there's a distinguished Liberal Democrat educationalist, great.
"If there's someone who's a Conservative, why should they be ruled out just because they are a Conservative?
"I think that would be quite wrong."
The latest row comes a week after Chief Inspector of Education Sir Michael Wilshaw voiced his anger at Mr Gove following media reports that two right-wing think tanks were drawing up plans to reform or even replace Ofsted.
Mr Gove was forced to issue a statement voicing his full support for Sir Michael and promising to dismiss aides if they were found to be part of any "dirty tricks" campaign.
Although Lady Morgan is a former close adviser to Tony Blair, her departure from Ofsted after her three-year term was seen as a surprise as she was regarded as a strong supporter of Mr Gove's free school and academies programmes.
Lady Morgan insisted there had been no falling out with Mr Gove.
She blamed Downing Street for orchestrating a campaign to remove non-Conservatives from senior positions on public bodies and replace them with loyal Tories.
Downing Street said the decision not to reappoint her had been the Education Secretary's.
A senior Lib Dem source warned they would not now allow Mr Gove to appoint a Tory donor in her place.
"Education policy is far more important than rewarding a few Tory cronies," the source said.
"The Lib Dems will not let our children's education be dictated by some Tory donor ideologue.
"It's another reminder, if one were needed, of what this government would be like if the Lib Dems weren't in it to keep the Tories honest."
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