Michael Gove, Britain's Education Secretary, is one of the most active ministers in David Cameron's Cabinet. He has been successful in promoting academies and free schools and claims that by 2015 they will make up one quarter of all schools in the UK. He is also probably the leader among ministers below the top rank who want change in the civil service. At the Department of Education he set up a network of outside advisers which worked independently of the civil service structure on a number of key issues. Now he wants to cut the operations of the Department by half, a move that would lead to the departure of about one thousand career civil servants, approximately one quarter of the department's total work force.
There are the usual noises about cutting red-tape but Mr Gove must know perfectly well that cuts on such a scale cannot be achieved satisfactorily without first deciding which activities should be dropped. This he has not done. Instead, he is working in reverse; having set the target for cuts he is undertaking a zero-base review to reform his department on first principles. This seems to put his anti-civil service instincts before his responsibilities for education.
Still, Michael Gove is probably the brightest of ministers with an eye on No 10 should neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Osborne want to continue in government.