Michael Gove's Cunning Plan

Michael Gove is, let's be honest here, not the easiest minister to love. Radio 4's The Now Show had a recurring joke about the Education Secretary, pestered by the seductive but evil words of a horrifying ventriloquist's dummy.

It worked because it played on an existing public perception. There's something, well, something of the night about Michael Gove.

So why would he take on beloved comedy institution Blackadder? A fight he can't possibly win?

He singled out the show's fourth series, set in the trenches of the First World War, for fostering what he calls a left-wing myth about the conflict.

Mr Gove seemed particularly incensed that some school pupils are shown the series' final episode, when Blackadder and his team go over the top into no man's land, and certain death.

Has Mr Gove seen the programme? If he has, has he understood it? 

I remember watching that episode the first time it was broadcast, in 1989. The whole series centred on Blackadder escaping attempts by Germans, firing squads and yes, blundering generals, to kill him.

He always escaped. But, about half-way through this episode, you realised he wasn't going to escape this time. What follows (I would suggest) is some of the most poignant and beautifully performed comedy writing British television has ever produced.

The final scene, where the battlefield fades into a field of poppies, had me in tears at the age of 17. It still does today.

But when Mr Gove watches it, he sees lefty claptrap. Similarly, criticism of the Somme, where 20-thousand lives were lost in a single day, ignores the central truth that it was All Germany's Fault.

This is a potentially risky move. We will spend large parts of this year looking back at the First World War. Labour has already accused Michael Gove of politicising the anniversary. And that's not something that's likely to play all that well with many voters.

Now Michael Gove is not a stupid man. In fact, he's a very clever man. And being a clever man, he would have known just what kind of reaction his comments, carefully placed in the Daily Mail, would have.

And that's the point. Not only is Michael Gove a clever man, he's a very ambitious one. And one who probably wouldn't mind being the next Conservative Party leader.

Should the 2015 election not work out the way the Conservatives hope, there may well be a vacancy. And the party members who'd vote in that leadership election are exactly the kind of people who'd cheer on a Daily Mail article about left-wing academics doing down Britain's greatest glories.

The thing is, by so easily dismissing those with a different view of the war, Mr Gove risks looking rather intolerant. And tolerance is surely one of the freedoms fought for in those trenches, a-hundred years ago.