Cabinet row over how to tackle extremism

Two competing views of how to combat Islamic extremism. Two competing approaches over how to tackle allegations that extremists have taken over Muslim schools in Birmingham. An old-fashioned Whitehall turf war. Oh, and a bit of personal politics too.

That's what lies behind the row between the home secretary and the education secretary revealed by The Times this morning.

I understand that Michael Gove and Theresa May clashed at a recent meeting of what's called the Extremism Task Force - a committee of cabinet ministers set up by David Cameron.

They argued about how to define extremism. Mr Gove has long argued that Whitehall is too soft on extremism; that it only confronts people once they've turned to violence; that you should "drain the swamp" and not wait for "the crocodiles to reach the boat". At the meeting he argued for a broader definition. Mrs May, for a narrower one. She won.

'No smoking gun'

They also argued about how to handle the Trojan Horse allegations. He argued for an aggressive approach. She for a softer one. Again, I'm told, she won.

To her fury - according to a source familiar with the row but who is not in either department - Mr Gove then "went behind her back" to his friend the prime minister and re-opened the argument.

In a week's time the Trojan Horse report will emerge. One well-placed source within Whitehall tells me "there is no smoking gun."

In advance of its publication Mr Gove's allies briefed The Times of their frustration with the Home Office's softly-softly approach. The Home Office released a letter from Mrs May to Mr Gove pointing out the failings in his own department.

An ally of Mrs May told me that she was angry with the way Mr Gove had handled this argument which should have stayed private and was "going in for the kill."

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