MICHAEL Gove is an intelligent man who has always had an impact on any department he has been given as a Minister. Some rate his reforms of education highly, tackling the educational ‘blob’. Others think he fell out with the teaching profession in a damaging way which did not help motivate them to reform exams and raise standards. He was not given time to see through his prison reform programme, which looked interesting. At Environment he has become an energetic green, keen to tax and regulate to achieve green aims. His wish to curb plastic waste is generally popular.
He played an important role in the last leadership election by changing his mind on the suitability of his preferred candidate, Boris Johnson, on the eve of nominations. His decision to withdraw support from Johnson whilst acting as his campaign manager led to Johnson’s withdrawal from the race and to the election of Mrs May. At the time Mr Gove told us Johnson was not capable of being leader, followed by comments that he had changed his mind about his suitability.
Mr Gove previously joined the Vote Leave campaign and made some important media contributions to its success. When he rejoined the government he became a very strong proponent of Mrs May’s Withdrawal Treaty, brushing aside criticisms that it is not Brexit, that it would delay our exit and undermine our negotiating position to get out eventually. Now that Mrs May’s Agreement has gone down to a spectacular defeat, attracting just 9.1 per cent support in a UK-wide election, he needs to tell us why he thought it such a good idea and why we should still be considering it as part of the answer to our Brexit needs. It is difficult to believe Mr Gove could sell it to the public, even if he were capable of the unlikely skill of selling it to a shocked Labour party and driving it through the Commons against the wishes of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs.
I would be interested to hear the case for Mr Gove from those who do want him to be Prime Minister.
This article was first published in John Redwood’s Diary on May 29, 2019, and is republished by kind permission.