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Commentary - Gove's mighty mess

Education Secretary Michael Gove spoke a lot about mess-ups in the Commons this week, but the biggest mess he got into was a growing pile of error-strewn school lists.

He was left red-faced for a fifth time when his latest list of schools in line to lose rebuilding cash was shown to have yet more mistakes in education questions.

Mr Gove has faced severe criticism from the press and fellow MPs - including those in his own party - after his decision last week to scrap the #163;55 billion secondary school rebuilding programme, Building Schools for the Future (BSF). He was forced to apologise for a series of errors last week after 25 schools were told that they would be safe from the cuts by mistake.

Three more error-ridden lists were then published, compounding Mr Gove's plight ahead of Monday's proposed "grilling".

Shadow education secretary Ed Balls must have been salivating at the idea of his counterpart being lambasted from all sides of the Commons. But aside from a series of tough questions of his own, Mr Balls would have felt distinctly let down.

The contender for the Labour leadership attacked the "arbitrary and chaotic" nature of how Mr Gove went about telling schools whether they were to face the BSF axe or not.

Mr Balls said the latest list, the fifth published by the Department, has 11 more schools not previously listed, and still contained errors, adding: "You must now know there is widespread anger on all sides of the House."

Apart from a trickle of discontent from Tory and Lib Dem backbenchers, the expected wave of resentment from the Coalition side never transpired, despite grumblings from Lib Dem defence minister Nick Harvey just days earlier.

Mr Gove responded by claiming the anger in the House was over Labour's management of the programme. "The justifiable anger that was felt was at the way in which a project, which originally had been supposed to cost #163;45 billion, ended up costing #163;55 billion," he said.

"Everyone involved in this process said to me, 'Make sure you ensure that this faltering and failing project ends.' And that is what I have done. I inherited a mess from you and we are clearing it up."

Let's hope the Coalition's cleaners won't have any more to clear up after list number six is published.

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