Monday, 9 April 2012

NaPoWriMo Poem Nine: What We Talk About When We Talk About Gove

Nobody's noticed so far.
The Education Sec is sure of that.
His subordinates say he prefers to stand.
His silence is interpreted as pensive;
his pose as friendly, jocular, on-message.

His choosing to remain in Cabinet Rooms
even after Dave and Gideon leave
is seen as diligent, though there are whispers
that it shows he wants the top job.
Nobody wants to make a fuss though.
They all know he's Rupert's boy.

When sure the coast is clear,
the under-secretaries lift him up
and fold back his supports.
One takes the legs, the other holds the shoulders,
turned so that his glazed eyes face the fly
of a Dege & Skiner three-piece,
his plain white backing turned to face the world.

At close of play they prop him in the office.
The cleaner, mute, Nigerian - is she Nigerian?
Somewhere like that, anyway - bumps the Henry's nozzle
against his cardboard feet. Says nothing. No-one knows.
Nobody knows exactly when the real Gove disappeared, where he is.
And he looks convincing. Lifelike. Nothing's been said so far.

                    *                  *                  *

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem in another persona. Somehow, thinking through personalities to assume and write from, I thought of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary of Britain's unelected, mandate-less Tory-led Coalition Government. And then I remembered something I'd seen over the weekend. The NASUWT, Britain's largest teaching union, has been holding its conference this week, a conference traditionally visited by the Education Secretary. This year, Gove himself chickened out of going, and, deciding to compound his cowardice with a staggering degree of high-handed arrogance, he didn't send an underling from either his own Tory party, or the Liberal Democrats, very much the Richard Hammond to the Tories' Jeremy Clarkson.

It's usual for the General Secretary of the union to address the Education Secretary at conference. Sometimes this can be a jocular and friendly exchange, sometimes it can be more combative. Given that Gove's approach to Britain's education system seems to be that the way to improve it is to destroy it, it was pretty clear that this year Gove was going to have to sit there and take his lumps. The fact that the Secretary of Education couldn't take a telling-off from teacher gives you the measure of the man.

But this gave NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates a problem. How could she deliver the address to Gove if he was too much of a scaredy-cat to show up? Fortunately, a solution was found. A cardboard cut-out of the Education Secretary was acquired, and Keates duly delivered her speech to this novelty Michael Gove standee.

This led me to wonder: what would it be like if the cardboard cut-out took over from Gove full-time? After all, in showing up to conference it had already shown considerably more courage than its real-life counterpart. And so...this is what resulted. I quite like the idea of Cardboard Gove in government. If nothing else, a 2D Education Secretary is unlikely to get any ideas about battling aliens.

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