Tom Watson describes the moment that he lost it with Gove

In the Commons chamber on Wednesday, Labour MP Tom Watson denounced Tory education secretary Michael Gove in terms so furious that he was obliged to withdraw them. It is already becoming a celebrated moment. One in which real anger at this government’s arrogance seemed, for the first time, to be articulated on our behalf.

If you haven’t seen it, you should first watch the video here. Then read Tom’s account, below, of how he got into that state.

It was like he was enjoying the humiliation. He wasn’t supposed to be. He was supposed to have had an epiphany – a realisation that Sandwell learners and teachers deserved better.

And during the course of my contribution he shifted a little forward on his bench, body in empathy, eyes like a puppy dog’s.

On Monday it was all very different. He was the conductor of the orchestra. And anxious Labour MPs were his instruments. And he was playing them for fools. Only Michael knew the whole tune. He knew best.

“In order to ensure that we do not waste any more money on a dysfunctional process, I am today taking action to get the best possible value for the taxpayer. I will take account of the contractual commitments already entered into, but I cannot allow more money to be spent until we have ensured a more efficient use of resources.”

He gave the impression that he’d gone through the plans for every school in scholarly detail. And having grasped the detail, he was halving the number of building schools for the future projects – more than 700 schools.

When I saw that Sandwell was safe, I was naively unsurprised. Those kids deserve it, right? However you ration investment, those schools are in desperate need of investment. A tiny part of me bristled that the last Labour government had not got around to it sooner. The work was going ahead. That was all that mattered.

The following day, dischord erupted. Michael had got his facts wrong. The department was very sorry but the some of the schools would not be receiving the investment. How many? Well, ahem, er, all of them. We tried to phone his private office. His diary secretary would get back to us. I’m still waiting.

Vernon Coaker led the charge. After 48 hours of Herculean effort by Vernon, we got the facts. Sandwell was to carry the majority of the cuts.

After what seemed like an eternity, Michael Gove was finally in the chamber about to give an explanation. He’d suffered the indignity of the Speaker inviting him to make a statement. And he was enjoying it. Enjoying the humiliation. That’s what I was thinking when I got to my feet.

I began to make my point about the intolerable way that parents and pupils had been treated. His eyes met mine. Was that a tear in a duct? Was his top lip really quivering?

He was making another bravura performance; a cadenza of sorrow.

It was like looking at bambi. So I shot him.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

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26 Responses to “Tom Watson describes the moment that he lost it with Gove”

  1. Nathage says:

    Perhaps the way in which it was delivered was a bit much, but it hit the nail on the head.
    Tom Watson, you are my hero.

  2. Michael Reeves says:

    Well done Tom, I salute you

  3. […] 9th, 2010 Quote of the Day Tom Watson explains his pipsqueak […]

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim Ireland, Josh Blacker, Matthew McGregor, Jack Seale, David Reilly and others. David Reilly said: "It was like looking at bambi. So I shot him" @Tom_Watson describes the moment when he lost it with Gove (@LabourUncut) […]

  5. Terry says:

    Nice one Tommy – once again proving you are a great man, and a hero

  6. Nigel S says:

    Shot your bolt more like, not impressed.

  7. Deja-vu all over again, by any chance?

    I think Tom was reliving his earlier life:

    “He was making another bravura performance; a cadenza of sorrow.

    It was like looking at bambi. So I shot him.”

    That other shooting of “bambi” by you tough guys turned out well for Labour, didn’t it, Tom? Can’t say you weren’t warned.

    (Btw, looks like something is still panging away at your guilty conscience, eh? Ref the anti-spam word.)

  8. A statesmanlike performance if ever I saw one. Really.

    I despair.

  9. […] Sometimes anger is both justified and honourable. […]

  10. John Doe says:

    Do you not think you made a bit of a fool out of yourself Tom? I saw it and thought you were making a great attack on Gove, clear, calm, thought through, and well delivered. And then you started shouting and you looked like you didn’t know what you were doing.

  11. Evie says:

    Sorry, should have said Tom made himself look like a right Labour Bully boy, which of course he is!

  12. […] can read the full thing here. Share With Friends var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_localize = { Share: "Share", Save: […]

  13. AndyN says:

    Strange how the issue that spawned such helpless, apoplectic rage in the House is one you haven’t so far found the inclination to write anything about either on your blog, your website or (barely) even on Twitter.

    You’re really just a posturing loudmouth, aren’t you?

  14. Woodbine says:

    The problem is that as far as these figures are concerned, we all know that Gove was inept rather than malicious. In reality you didn’t shoot him, you just spat at him, school bully style.

  15. Jackart says:

    Faux outrage from a representative of the defeated party responsible for a bureaucratic nightmare, and fiscal catastrophe.

    Screaming Waaaaa! cuts is pathetic coming from the party that bankrupted us.
    You’re despicable, Watson.

  16. […] has put the boot in with a wonderfully crafted explanation of why he called Gove a pipsqueak.  It is worth a read even if you can’t stand Labour.   Tom Watson was also kind enough to tweet this link about Inspector Cleggeau, our revered […]

  17. “Statesmanlike”?

    THIS is statesmanlike –

    To paraphrase Aaronovitch – tonibler 9. tomwatizat 0.

    Btw, Tom – your anti-spam clue could/should have been – ‘Which former Labour Prime Minister’s name rhymes with “care”?’

  18. Editor says:

    Tom has contributed this article to the site – but the site is not his. You can find his at

  19. Chris says:

    @Tom Watson

    Your outburst showed the passion and anger that is being ignited inside the Labour party and the wider progressive alliance by the Tories and the back stabbing, quisling Lib Dems. We must harness this energy and direct it to taking back every level of government.

    I found watching it again and again a very cathartic experience. I loathe that smug little simpering tosser Gove and I could have only gained greater satisfaction if you’d actually beaten him unconscious.

  20. PeeJay says:

    Yawn, yawn, yawn.

    The tax-payer owes the student a sound education, not modern architecture. I went to some very austere schools, schools that certainly aren’t up to EU health & safety requirements yet I still had an excellent education.

  21. Bucks Man says:

    Who ate all the pies.

  22. DRXL says:

    Quite right, PeeJay, NuLiebor had 13 years to deliver improvements to Education, Education, Education but managed (wrong word, I know!) barely to scratch the surface, bulls*****s that they are!

    What’s the buildings got to do with delivering proper education, FFS?

  23. Raoul says:

    Embarrassing and slightly thuggish. You sounded like you were arguing over a knocked over beer at a wetherspoons , rather than something as important as education. Ad hominem attacks are always pathetic.

  24. Barry McCanna says:

    What a champion, not. I might have been impressed had you spoken up when your former PM (the one before Brown, remember?) misled the house over WMDs. As it was you merely showed yourself up, yet again.

  25. Chris says:


    “What’s the buildings got to do with delivering proper education, FFS?”

    What planet are you living on? You have absolutely *no* idea what the fuck your talking about!!! Labour rebuilt or refurbished over 4000 schools during the past 13 years, it increased funding for education from ~£2000 per pupil to ~£6000 per pupil.

    Labour’s record on education is almost entirely positive!

  26. AndyN says:

    Labour rebuilt or refurbished over 4000 schools during the past 13 years, it increased funding for education from ~£2000 per pupil to ~£6000 per pupil.

    …..and 20% of school leavers are functionally illiterate and/or innumerate. Employers all over the country are reporting that applicants are arriving for interview with a hatful of GCSEs and a big sense of entitlement – but are unable to compose a four-sentence email without spelling mistakes or set up a basic Excel spreadsheet.

    Quintessential Labour – spend three times as much money on everything and accomplish half as much.

    You have absolutely *no* idea what the f**k your talking about!!!

    Oh, this is priceless – someone vehemently supporting Labour education policy who doesn’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re”! It’s almost beyond parody.

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