Michael Gove's wife hits out at David Cameron over axing
David Cameron's sweeping reshuffle ran into trouble yesterday when Michael Gove's wife attacked the Prime Minister's decision to oust him as Education Secretary.
Sarah Vine, a columnist for the Daily Mail, tweeted that Tuesday's Cabinet shake-up was "a shabby day's work which Cameron will live to regret".
It linked to a scathing article in The Mail with the same headline in which Max Hastings, a former Daily Telegraph editor, said Mr Gove's "sacking" had "shocked Middle England".
He wrote: "The removal of Michael Gove, standard-bearer for the most important reforms in British government this century, is worse than a crime."
Ms Vine's assault threatens to blow out of the water Downing Street's attempt to portray Mr Gove's new job as Chief Whip as a vital role rather than a demotion. Her criticism is all the more remarkable because she is a close friend of Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha.
Allies of Mr Gove say he feels "bruised" by his removal and that Mr Cameron had to "twist his arm" over a prolonged period before he reluctantly agreed to leave.
Some Conservative MPs doubt whether Mr Gove will take on one of the roles announced by Number 10 – as a "front man" presenting Conservative policy in broadcast interviews.
They believe this is at odds with the reason for his surprise job switch – private polling presented by Lynton Crosby, the Tories' Australian election strategist, showing that Mr Gove is deeply unpopular with teachers.
That was reinforced yesterday by an Ipsos MORI survey showing that Mr Gove is one of the least popular politicians in Britain.
As Mr Cameron continued his reshuffle by appointing junior ministers, some Tory men voiced their concern about the promotion of women MPs – one of the main features of the shake-up. No female ministers had been sacked.
Esther McVey, the Employment Minister, laughed off criticism of the "Downing Street catwalk" after photographs showed her and other promoted women outside No 10.
She said it was "fantastic having women in powerful positions" and that the so-called catwalk was "fine if it inspires girls to go into politics".
There was only one change at the Northern Ireland Office in David Cameron's reshuffle.
Former naval surgeon and West Wiltshire MP Andrew Murrison was moved from the Ministry of Defence to become a Minister of State for Northern Ireland. He replaced former soldier Andrew Robathan MP, who turned 63 today.