Francis Beckett

An odd day yesterday.  To the Department of Education for a long, relaxed interview with the new Education Secretary, Michael Gove, whom I'm profiling for the New Statesman; then along to the Fire Brigades Union rally at the TUC for London firefighters.

Gove, dapper, charming, all smiles, in his splendid Secretary of State's office - the same office where I interviewed Charles Clarke, a few years and what seems like a lifetime ago - talking of serious things with a certain attractive  lightness.  He once stood on a NUJ picket line, but has left the union because he disliked its line on the Middle East.

Then at the TUC, 600 of London's 5,500 firefighters, all of them under sentence of dismissal for failing to agree new shift patterns, all of them cheering their leaders - general secretary Matt Wrack and London Executive Member Ian Leahair got very noisy standing ovations. They know they are asking a lot of those leaders.  All that anger is ready to be channelled, and Wrack and Leahair have to make sure it is not thrown away, as the miners' anger was in 1984.

For I left that meeting quite sure that there will be at least a London-wide fiefighters' strike.  The London Fire Service letter of dismissal if they do not sign on the dotted line has so angered the men and women of the fire service that a strike is inevitable. The London Fire Brigade will bring its specially prepared private army of strikebreakers from Eastern Europe and other places.

And Michael Gove, for all his charm, wit and erudition, will not begin to understand what is going on on the streets of London.