January 27, 2023

Michael Gove has attacked the New York Times as “useful idiots” for his podcast on the Trojan horse controversy involving schools in Birmingham, accusing him of portraying the UK “as an insular backwater whose inhabitants are drowning in a tidal wave of nostalgia, racism and bad food”.

Gove’s claims come in the foreword to a new “documentary” about the Trojan horse affair published by the think tank Policy Exchange, whose authors question whether the government has adequately addressed concerns about extremism in schools.

While much of the report provides historical detail about the events of 2013-2014 — after an anonymous letter alleged Islamist activists took over state schools in Birmingham — it is also highly critical of a recent New York Times-sponsored podcast, The Trojan Horse Affair. , who was skeptical of both the letter and the government’s handling of the controversy.

Gove, who was England’s education secretary when the controversy first arose, wrote in the report’s foreword that the podcast series was “full of errors and omissions” and was a “travesty” that favored activists who told the stories. of the government about the affair.

Gove and his co-author, former Home Office special adviser Nick Timothy, also accuse the New York Times of being biased towards the UK as a whole, claiming that the paper has “had a peculiar attitude towards Britain in recent years.” Britain has taken and portrayed this repeatedly. country as an insular backwater whose inhabitants are drowning in a tidal wave of nostalgia, racism and bad food”.

The podcast was critical of Gove’s involvement, revealing that he had been repeatedly warned that the original letter was “fake” by Birmingham authorities.

The bulk of the Policy Exchange report is a timeline of events leading up to the revelation of the anonymous letter and the ensuing wave of reports and inquiries conducted by public authorities including Birmingham City Council, the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofstead. It took into account media coverage of the original affair as well as the New York Times podcast when it launched in February this year.

While little or no evidence of an organized plot by Islamist extremists has been found and the letter from the Trojan horse is widely regarded as a hoax, the investigations have led several schools in Birmingham to enforce management changes and introduce new national requirements for schools have been required to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

But the authors of the Policy Exchange report questioned whether the government has taken on board the recommendations of its own inquiry into the affair. “It is unclear how many of these recommendations have been fully implemented and what are the outcomes of their implementation,” they concluded.

A government spokesman said: “Schools are required to ensure all staff are trained to recognize the signs of radicalization as part of the Prevent duty and we have a dedicated helpline for schools to raise concerns about radicalisation.

“We regularly update our guidelines and publish new training materials to help schools identify and address extremist beliefs.”

Gove and Timothy also link the criticism of the Trojan horse affair to attacks on the government’s anti-extremism program, Prevent, which is the subject of an independent investigation conducted by William Shawcross.

“There is a well-organized campaign trying to undermine our anti-extremism work and the government’s anti-radicalization strategy, Prevent. This is important to note pending Prevent’s independent review,” wrote Gove and Timothy.

“Many of the key players in this campaign — who will no doubt repeat their demands for Prevent’s deletion, no matter how refined — are also involved in undermining the truth about the Trojan horse. The common thread running through their campaigns is the accusation of state-driven ‘Islamophobia’.”

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