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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: Michael Gove

One minute he's basking in the glory of his best received speech for a long while (last week's on ICT), the next he's covered himself in a pile of the steamy stuff. Even before he and prime minister David Cameron waded into the Ofsted debate on "satisfactory" schools (see page 17), the education secretary had earned himself a place on the Naughty Step by privately suggesting that Her Majesty ought to be rewarded for reaching her Diamond Jubilee with a #163;60 million royal yacht.

It emerged on Monday that the arch-monarchist had written to his fellow cabinet members last month to explain that the luxury boat was nothing more than the Queen deserved for her tireless work for the nation. Cue an explosion of criticism, both hostile and jovial. Inevitably, the prime minister said there would be no public money.

However, the question remains: what on God's green earth was Mr Gove thinking? Sixty million pounds on an extravagant yacht while the country's economy goes to the dogs? Sixty million pounds on a gin palace while many schools face losing staff and resources as their budgets are slashed? Complete madness.

There has been more than one occasion during his short political life when Mr Gove has reasonably been accused of being out of touch. But none more so than during this unfathomable episode.

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