2nd July 2010 at 01:00
The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it

Monday: Is there anything more miserable than a Happy Hour? I meet Think Tank Frank for an early evening catch-up in the Curriculum and Firkin. Poor Frank, chucked overboard when the Department of Children, Families, Feelings, People, Learning, Life and Balls was boarded by Captain Gove and his pirate crew in May. Now he's doing freelance thinking, much of it in the pub. I offer to get the drinks in. "Thanks," he says. "I'll have a triple vodka." Steady on mate, I caution. "Don't lecture me!" he snaps. "Look, I'm failing, that's why I need special measures ... ".

Tuesday: Scary Paula, The Gove's blue-sky dominatrix, wants to see me. There's been a massive falling-out with architects over the decision to scrap Labour's Building Schools For The Fees initiative. The Gove's comments that architects were "creaming off" money by cynically playing the system (ie designing buildings) has left relations between the worlds of education and architecture strained, to say the least. Things haven't been this bad since education secretary Kenneth Baker publicly denounced architects as "ghastly little tossers with appalling trouser sense" in the 1980s.

Wednesday: To the Department. Scary Paula outlines my mission. I'm to join a new committee, the Space To Learn Liaison Group, in an effort to repair things. "Bridge build," says Scary Paula. "Mend fences." I'm not sure how architects are going to respond to metaphors based on civil engineering and garden maintenance. They're notoriously arsey.

Thursday: Off to the first liaison group meeting with the arseytects, half a dozen of them. God, what a sulky bunch of snobs. All "epic space" this and "organic form" that. I tell them The Gove really didn't intend to upset them when he said architecture was a luxury we simply can't afford, like truffles or pedicures. In fact, I say, he's a huge fan of the built environment. Loves it. Often takes his holidays in or near architecture. Look at St Paul's etc, marvellous. In fact, he needs architects' help. Not the whole profession, obviously. Just the select few who can "imagineer" some prototype boutique pop-up schools. Who might appreciate working for discerning clients. And who understand that reserves of "yummy money" to bankroll the "free schools" revolution are extremely finite. The architects agree, probably only half a dozen or so architects will be required.

Friday: The architects are liaising with the parent entrepreneurs group Pop-Up And Push, identifying pilot schemes for school conversions. They've already suggested a new style: the Stockholm Look. Vacant, melancholy state buildings emptied by budget cuts, ruthless Scandinavian minimalism, IKEA furniture, Swedish teaching franchises. The architects have even formed a development agency. The Associated Board of Boutique Architects, or ABBA for short.

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