After weeks of rowing over grammar schools, that may not be what is wanted. But it has led to his move from shadow housing minister, where he scored in his campaign against home information packs.
David Willets's sideways shift from the shadow education secretary post to oppose John Denham on the innovation, universities and skills brief will probably feel like rough justice. He may have sparked unrest by questioning grammar schools' credentials on social mobility, but he was merely stating policy that had already been aired.
Mr Willets and Mr Gove have plenty in common, with a thoughtful intellectual approach to education policy. Mr Gove, 39, has been described by a political colleague as "more of a swot than a nerd". As a journalist on The Times, where he rose to assistant editor, he once considered leaving to become a teacher.
Instead he stood for Parliament, winning a safe Tory seat in 2005.
"The admiration I have for teaching is influenced by the people who had such enormous effect on my life," he told The TES. "I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today if it hadn't been for the work of inspirational teachers." (He attended two primaries and the independent Rob-ert Gordon's college in Aberdeen.)
Asked if he is a fan of grammar schools, he cries: "Next question!" But it is understood the party will not be changing its 11-plus policy.
In keeping with party rhetoric, he said the Tories needed to "recognise that there is a special responsibility to ensure we target help most efficiently on the most disadvantaged".
As a backbencher he suggested using a voucher system to achieve this, with parents of the most deprived pupils receiving extra funding to boost their choice of schools.
Now he is more cautious. "I don't believe in taking a dogmatic approach," he said.
Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democtrats' lack-lustre education spokeswoman, will move to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and David Laws becomes the spokesman on schools.