Meet the single-issue candidate standing against Michael Gove in a bid to increase art in schools

6th May 2015 at 14:15
picture of bob and roberta smith
'I’m 200 to 1 to win, which I think are pretty good odds'

A celebrated artist, who is running for Parliament against the former education secretary Michael Gove in a bid to push for more creative subjects to be taught in schools, has said he is convinced the campaign has already been a success. 

Patrick Brill, who works under the name Bob and Roberta Smith, has been contesting Mr Gove's seat in an attempt to place art and other creative subjects higher up the political agenda. And he said that despite the long odds on him winning, the effort has been more than worth it. 

“I think everybody gets it,” he told TES on the eve of polling day. “A lot of Conservative-minded people completely get it, but I have my doubts that I’ll get hundreds of votes.

“I think people do appreciate the effort and what is amazing is that I’ve met lots of people who are passionate about art. There have been a lot of positive responses to the campaign. Apparently I’m 200 to 1 to win, which I think are pretty good odds.”

In 2010, Mr Gove won the seat with 31,326 votes – and a 17,289 majority.

Mr Brill, who works in education as an associate professor at London Metropolitan University, has been campaigning under the slogan "All Schools Should Be Art Schools", and he argues that all children should study at least one arts subject at GCSE and that no school should be allowed to offer a curriculum without art, music, drama, dance and design at GCSE and A-level.

The decision to run against Mr Gove came after the introduction of the EBac measure in 2010, which gave extra weight in the league tables to strictly academic subjects. The move was widely condemned by leading figures in the arts for excluding creative subjects.

By the time Mr Brill announced he was running in December 2014, Mr Gove had already been in his new post as Commons chief whip for five months. But Mr Brill said he ruled out standing against the current education secretary Nicky Morgan in Loughborough, as her predecessor was the man behind the original policy. 

“By removing him, they removed the wrecking ball. But he is completely the architect of all those moves.”

And like any other political campaign, Mr Brill’s tilt at Parliament has been given a celebrity endorsement with actor and comedian Russell Brand tweeting a film about the artist to his 9.63m followers. 

Mr Brill said he has spent the last few days staying in his "battle bus" – a camper van – parked on the front garden of a supporter in Camberley. 

He has largely enjoyed the campaign, saying that no-one has told him he was completely wrong – although he suspects some people may find him annoying. And his strangest moment? “I was in Chobham, the staunchest Tory village in Britain, and I explained what I was doing to this couple and they said: ‘We’re Marxists from Frimley’. They said they were going to spoil their ballot papers, but now they won’t, they are going to vote for me. That was lovely.”

Mr Brill is registered to vote in Ramsgate, south Thanet, which he is intending to do tomorrow before heading back to Camberley to drive the battle bus around and urge people to vote.

He will then take part in an Election Night Special event at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, before returning to the count in Surrey Heath at 11pm. 

“It’s been exciting, in fact I’ve been so involved in the campaign that I’ve lost track completely of what is happening nationally,” he added. “But my wife has promised me that she will bake me a cake if I get more than 100 votes. I think I’ll get 127."


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