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U.K. Cabinet Clashes Over Handling Islamist Extremism in Schools

Home Secretary Theresa May and Education Secretary Michael Gove, both Conservative Cabinet ministers in Prime Minister David Cameron’s U.K. coalition, clashed over how to handle Islamist extremism in schools.

The two lawmakers issued a statement today saying they are “working energetically together” after May published a letter to Gove questioning his education department’s failure to act on warnings in 2010 about schools in Birmingham, central England.

The row follows allegations of a plot by hardline Islamists to take over schools in the city in order to radicalize students. Schools in the area have now been inspected by education regulators, who will report next week, while a report by former Metropolitan Police counter-terror chief Peter Clarke is due this summer.

“Is it true that Birmingham City Council was warned about these allegations in 2008?” May wrote in the letter to Gove, later released by her office. “Is it true that the Department for Education was warned in 2010? If so, why did nobody act?”

Gove blames a reluctance from the Home Office to tackle extremism until it develops into terrorism for the infiltration of schools, according to an article in The Times of London today, a newspaper where he was a columnist and assistant editor.

Cameron’s government is more often characterized by splits over policy between the Tories and their junior partners, the Liberal Democrats, rather than a turf war between two Conservatives. May has repeatedly clashed with Business Secretary Vince Cable over immigration, while Gove had to issue a joint newspaper article with his junior education minister, David Laws, to try to dispel reports about funding disagreements.

Both May and Gove have been named by Cameron as possible successors to him in his post as Conservative leader. Yesterday, a poll of party members for the grassroots website ConservativeHome said May is best placed to win. The website put the surge in her popularity down to her tough stand on funding for the police, which helped her overtake London Mayor Boris Johnson.

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