|Total Politics in its print incarnation c. February 2012|
I was delighted to note this very involving, detailed, personal piece on the Total Politics site by James Frayne, in which he describes The Knives as ‘a startlingly accurate glimpse into the life of a secretary of state’. Observing that ‘everything about life in government departments pressures politicians to behave in ways that are reactive and short-termist’, Frayne proceeds to assert that The Knives ‘explains this better than anyone in recent times’ and is kind enough to credit me for particular authenticity on a specific number of counts.
I take this as well-informed opinion because James Frayne was director of communications for the Department for Education between 2011 and 2012, working for then-minister Michael Gove, having come from employment at a number of lobbying and PR firms. One of these was Portland Communications, founded by Tim Allan, close colleague of Tony Blair while Blair was Labour leader. (Recently Portland had the amusing distinction of being accused by some halfwit cultists of Jeremy Corbyn of having ‘incited’ the latest formal challenge to Corbyn’s risible pseudo-Labour-'leadership'.) Anyhow: from the DoE Frayne moved on to the Policy Exchange think tank in 2014, and now runs his own consultancy, Public First.
The story of Gove's controversial tenure at Education was drafted and rehearsed continually even at the time: there will be a definitive account in due course, I'm sure. Meanwhile, in noting from his own Whitehall experience that ‘politicians make many decisions on the basis of competing pressures’, and must endlessly face ‘flak’ that ‘comes at short notice and demands an immediate response’, Frayne certainly gives a sketch of modern politics that I recognise from my researches.