Gove says he’s ‘ready to unite this country’ – a task for which he’s incapable

Janet Downs's picture

Michael Gove, environment secretary, told the BBC* he was ‘ready’ to join the Tory leadership battle.  ‘Ready’ to unite the party; ‘ready to deliver Brexit’; ‘ready to unite this country’.

In a clip lasting 27 seconds, Gove repeated ‘ready’ five times.

Repetition is a Gove trademark.  Rory Bremner satirised Gove’s approach in 2013.  When asked if his claims about teenagers’ historical ignorance was based on unreliable surveys**, the Gove impersonator invoked Newton’s First Law of Public Relations: if you repeat anything enough times in the media it becomes a fact.

But Gove’s oratorical style is not the focus of this article.  It’s Gove’s inability to bring people together.

Gove, as education secretary, relished division.  People were either for him or against him.  He presented his policies as a battle between those who supported his reforms and those who didn’t.  Those who opposed him were vilified as the ‘Blob’, Marxists peddling a bigoted, backward bankrupt ideology, enemies of promise.

After Gove was heckled at the NAHT annual conference in 2013, the then CBI chief John Cridland said the education secretary needed to carry school leaders with him but was failing to do so.

A year later, ‘private polling’ revealed Gove had become toxic.  The then PM, David Cameron, sacked him.  Gove’s notorious special adviser, Dominic Cummings, boasted how ‘we’ deliberately subverted ‘every W/hall and No 10 process’.

Ministerial behaviour which allows a prime minister to be undermined in such a calculating way is not unifying, it’s destructive. 

David Laws described Gove’s Department for Education as ‘maverick’ and out of control.  And while Laws told the Times Gove could be a future Tory leader, his Coalition Diaries describe Gove’s character faults particularly his unwillingness to compromise, fierce protection of pet policies and his desire to win.

But Gove has always said he had no desire to win top job.  During his first stab at the leadership in July 2016, after knifing Boris, he passionately denied he wanted to become prime minister.   But three years before in 2013, Nick Cohen, in a Guardian article which foreshadowed David Laws’ exposé of the DfE’s poisonous atmosphere, revealed that Cameron feared Gove was preparing a leadership bid.

Speaking to Nick Robinson yesterday, Gove said he had ‘evolved’ as a politician – that was why he’d thrown his hat in the ring.  But even in this interview, his first after saying he would stand, he repeated the myth that his father’s business had been ruined by the EU fisheries policy.  But that wasn’t quite true.

But half-truths aside (and Gove has spouted many of them), the fact remains that Gove is not a unifier.  After undermining Cameron and knifing Boris Johnson, the Telegraph asked:

‘…can you really claim to be a unifying figure when you've destroyed not one but two of your closest Conservative allies?

It’s a question those who are able to vote in the upcoming leadership election should ponder.


*Clip here

**Gove’s use of dodgy surveys was first debunked on this site.

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John Mountford's picture
Mon, 27/05/2019 - 16:39

Janet, only someone with the memory of a fish or someone without a care for reason and truth would cast Michael Gove as a unifier. His record, like that of the government he served, speaks for itself. He is a fairweather friend with no clue as to the damage he inflicted on education during his tenure as Secretary of State. His party, now bruised and battered by the impact of proportional representation, is about to battle for its future. Long may it slide into decline, soon to be joined by Labour unless it can get off the fence long enough to work out its position over Brexit, that ill-thought out shot in the dark aimed at silencing once and for all the warring factions in the Conservative Party. It is refreshing to think that fate is finally playing its hand.

agov's picture
Tue, 28/05/2019 - 08:13

"that wasn’t quite true"

Or was it? -

Still, it does seem unlikely that 'backstabber' Gove would be chosen but on the other hand idiot Tory MPs will no doubt be trying to ensure that the membership is allowed no more than a choice between two treasonous Remoaners.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 28/05/2019 - 10:14

agov - I did say 'it wasn't quite true' not 'it was untrue'.   There's an element of truth in what Gove said about the reasons behind the closure of his father's fish processing business - the introduction of conservation measures in the Common Fisheries Policy in 1983 caused distress and anger among fishermen in Scotland.   But overfishing had already caused dwindling stock which is one of the reasons Total Allowable Catches were introduced in 1983.  That's why I described it as a 'half-truth'.

It could well have been the last straw for Gove's dad - but the Aberdeen fishing industry was already in decline.  Gove claims to be a historian but there seems to be a blank spot in his knowledge of the history of fishing in Scotland.  See RSE inquiry into the Scottish Fishing Industry.  

Perhaps he should have discussed this with his mum who, under strict instructions not to speak to the media, nevertheless told the Telegraph that there wasn't anything left of business from Aberdeen harbour following redevelopment after the oil boom began in the 1970s. 


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 28/05/2019 - 10:23

agov -  Note also from the Telegraph report how Gove  launched an ad hominem attack when the interviewer mentioned what Gove's dad had said.    Divisive.  Rather like splitting the country into patriots and traitors depending on their view of Brexit.  Hardly unifying and shuts down reasoned debate whoever is doing the mud-slinging.


agov's picture
Wed, 29/05/2019 - 11:36

"conservation measures"

Good try -

"Scotland’s fishing fleet has declined dramatically, with the loss of jobs and trawlers as a result, say critics, of the EU’s quota system.


It’s not hard finding fishermen in the north-east of Scotland, especially around the fishing ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead, who agree with Mr Gove’s view of the damaging effects of the CFP.


"I have been in this industry for 30 years and the economy around here has been decimated up here by the CFP."

"You can see it in all the coastal communities, in places like Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Macduff. You just have to look at the closed shops everywhere, the quotas and regulations have had a huge effect. Most fishermen I know will be voting to leave.”"

Conservation is a worthy objective. That does not logically require the EU allocating itself 70-80% (depending on which figures are used) of fish taken from UK waters. Moderation of total catches needed a reduction of total fishing capacity but that does not imply the destruction of the Scottish (not that the SNP likes to talk about that) and British fishing fleets. Exactly how much truth content are you suggesting is embraced by this "half" truth? Something 'following' something else may be correlation not causation, as I believe you quite often like to point out.

"the interviewer mentioned" -

Or, as the article put it: "Islam tried to dismiss his claims about his father".

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 29/05/2019 - 15:16

agov - I don't doubt that Scottish fishermen voted to leave.  Neither do I doubt they blame the EU especially as papers released under the 30 year rule revealed a civil servant saying the Scottish fishermen were expendable in the light of Britain's 'wider European interests'. 

Closed shops are not confined to places like Peterhead and Fraserburgh.  It's difficult to see how CFP caused closed shops across the UK.  Internet shopping had a lot to do with it (or is that just correlation and not cause?)

The latest data (2016) showing unemployment in Travel to Work Areas (TTWA) show the average UK TTWA employment rate as 73.7%.   Fraserburgh's employment rate was below this at 70.6%, but both Aberdeen (79.1%) and Peterhead (80.4%) exceed this average.   Peterhead is the largest fishing port in the UK. That's not to say it wouldn't thrive even more outside the EU - I don't know (Peterhead fishermen expect they would thrive but a large proportion of their catch is exported to the EU as fresh fish - any delay would cause the fish to rot). 

agov's picture
Thu, 30/05/2019 - 11:55

Ted Heath's Government's lies about the 'Common Market' were many and the fishing industry was just one thing that was happily sacrificed to his obssessive hatred of the United States and it's replacement of Britain and Europe as the power centre of the world.

The decline of the British fishing fleet began long before the invention of the net and web.

How does the state of the high street determine the state of primary industries? Does British North Sea oil no longer provide any employment for the Scots? Perhaps most of them are in fishing.

Could they not try refrigeration?

Entirely up to the EU to decide if it wishes to buy fish from Britain - if we have any spare left over after providing for ourselves, and conservation of course.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/05/2019 - 12:13

'The decline of the British fishing fleet began long before the invention of the net and web.'  I was referring to closure of high street shops nationally.  How odd that you should have interpreted my point as meaning the internet had contributed to the decline of UK fishing.  That would be slly.

'How does the state of the high street determine the state of primary industries?'  It doesn't.  And that's not what I said.

'Could they not try refrigeration?'  Freezing fish reduces its value.

'...if we have any spare left over after providing for ourselves'.   The conservative (small c) tastes of UK fish eaters is the reason that a large proportion of fish landed at Peterhead is exported.  I'd love to eat them - especially those very large prawn-like fish that Peterhead skipper John Buchan touted around in the EU on his 'trawlerman' programme.   And Buchan, strongly critical of the CFP, is more honest than Gove about the decline in fishing.    

'But every fisherman knows, if we’re honest, that the CFP isn’t to blame for all the changes and challenges we’ve experienced in the industry.'

'The contraction of the sector, the concentration in fewer hands – these same trends are evident in commercial fleets outside the CFP, and have been driven more by technological changes, market forces and the state of fish stocks than by anything else.'

agov's picture
Fri, 31/05/2019 - 12:09


Silly and not what I did. The point is that are various causes for different matters. You cited online shopping, which does have an impact nationally and internationally on traditional shops, but that does not explain a decline in another industry that commenced before there was any 'online'. The decline of the fishing fleet might well entail a decline in shopping and therefore of shops without any need for an electronic cause.

"that's not what I said"

OK, so you didn't mean that the net caused closed shops and therefore a smaller fishing fleet. What did you mean? Presumably not that the online shopping that hadn't been invented caused a smaller fishing fleet and shops also closed? Or did you mean the online shopping that subsequently appeared caused a further reduction in shop numbers in addition to that which was already in progress due to the decline in the fishing fleet?

"reduces its value"

Well, perhaps the French police can spare time from beating up gilets jaunes and beat up French fishermen instead thus allowing British vessels to more safely use French ports to directly unload any fish the French wish to buy.

"conservative (small c) tastes"

If that was all that was involved then their would be nothing to prevent the French continuing to buy such fish as we do not want.

"more honest than Gove about the decline in fishing"

Have you not heard? Gove is the new lauded champion of conservation and green things in general.

"CFP isn’t to blame for all the changes and challenges"

Thus not in any way denying the role played by the CFP with its allocation of 70-80% of catches from British waters to other bits of the EU.

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