Michael Gove may have got off to a slightly shaky start as education secretary, but after his emphatic speech this morning, there can be no doubt that he's hit his stride.
He came to Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College in New Cross to declare that the government will be pouring special effort into converting the 200 worst-performing primary schools into academies as soon as possible, but ended up dwarfing his own announcement with the ferocity of his attack on critics of the government's education reforms. Even though the host school has already taken over a failing primary school and improved it, demostrating exactly the success the projected expansion is aimed at achieving.
The academies programme isn't driven by ideology, he said - its opponents are. "We're not ideologues. It's not about ideology. It's a practical programme built on by successive governments."
They are the "enemies of promise", he said, and even went as far as to examine their opposition in light of their "prejudices", saying:
"The same ideologues who are happy with failure... also say you can't get the same results in the inner cities as the leafy suburbs, so it's wrong to stigmatise these schools... What are they saying? “If you're poor, if you're Turkish, if you're Somali, then we don't expect you to succeed. You will always be second class and it's no surprise your schools are second class.”
Gove himself "utterly rejects that attitude", he declared, and went on to train his sights on local authorities who "stand in the way" of reform. This is where his strongest attack came, calling it "the bigoted backward bankrupt ideology of a left wing establishment that perpetuates division and denies opportunity."
Interestingly, despite the vehemence of his delivery, he appears to be willing, to a certain extent, to ignore party-political divisions. He cited the work of Andrew Adonis, David Miliband, Kate Hoey, Alan Milburn and Frank Field both in government and since, and said that "it's the Labour leadership" that are not on the same page as far as "progress" is concerned.
Tottenham MP David Lammy came in for a double-edged compliment, too, as Gove said Lammy had "made a mistake" by supporting opponents of academies in his constituency, despite being "someone I hugely admire".
With this speech, Gove has emphasised just how much of an asset he is to the coalition, and how big a problem he is for Labour. His programme of reform is well-advanced and is gathering an evidential basis of improvement - the education secretary devoted a good deal of his speech to enumerating the academic and empirical evidence of its success. Combined with the planned push into primary education, a similar speech in two or three years time will be a devastating electoral tool. As he says, some senior Labour figures seem to agree with the direction he's travelling in.
Unless the Labour leadership can develop a nuanced argument against his programme and a viable alternative pronto, education looks to become an area where they are fighting a losing battle with a general who's justed started roaring in victory.