WESTMINSTER’S Education Secretary Michael Gove has apologised to the Prime Minister over the briefing war with the Home Secretary’s department.
Mr Gove and Theresa May clashed over how to deal with claims of a hardline Muslim plot to take over some Birmingham schools.
The row between two of the Cabinet’s biggest hitters overshadowed this week’s Queen’s Speech – sparking a furious reaction from David Cameron, who ordered an internal investigation to find out who was to blame.
Mrs May was last night facing Labour calls for a public apology over her part in the row.
Her special adviser Fiona Cunningham was found to have been the source of a negative briefing against Mr Gove and has stood down, but Labour said more action needs to be taken.
Yesterday it emerged Mr Gove has apologised to the Prime Minister and to Home Office counter-terror chief Charles Farr after comments critical of him appeared in a national newspaper, attributed to a Department for Education source.
Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday said the row was a “disciplinary matter within the government which the Prime Minister has dealt with in a very firm and clear way”.
He said: “The government will be very robust, very clear about anything that puts children in our schools at risk of extremism, at risk to their safety or to their learning.”
Labour said the developments were an indication of “chaos at the heart of the government’s efforts to tackle extremism” and said there were still unanswered questions about Mrs May’s role.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mrs May could have breached the Ministerial Code by publishing a letter to another minister – something that would normally have remained confidential – on the Home Office website.
Mrs May had previously written the letter to Mr Gove, accusing his department of failing to act when concerns about the Birmingham schools were brought to its attention in 2010
Ms Cooper said: “Theresa May’s closest adviser has resigned for inappropriate release of ministerial correspondence, yet the letter to the Education Secretary was signed and sent by the Home Secretary on the same day it was leaked to newspapers.
“Was this letter written in order to be leaked and did the Home Secretary authorise its inappropriate release?
“More importantly the government now needs to ensure that all departments are working together on an agreed joint strategy to work with communities on preventing extremism.
“Tackling extremism is vitally important and departments should be working together to combat it. What is clear is that hasn’t been happening as two Cabinet Ministers instead waged a briefing war. The parents, pupils and people of Birmingham and the whole country deserve better than that.”
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: “Michael Gove should be apologising to pupils and parents, not David Cameron. He was warned of the problems in Birmingham four years ago. Michael Gove can no longer seek to distance himself from the mess that he has created. He must explain in full what he knew about the warnings he was given in 2010.”