It really is enthralling. In the week when Game of Thrones’ sixth series came to a climactic end, a new-drama has started to be played out in the newspapers and bulletins of the British media. The battle for the Conservative and Labour leaderships have simultaneously commenced. A throng of understudies fight it out for a defeated leader’s crown while a people’s champion clings onto power with all those around him striving to steal it from him. It is as near to a Game of Thrones/House of Cards hybrid as the public is ever likely to get but if the series is ever to be commissioned, there is only one man whom the protagonist can be.
Michael Gove’s entire political career has been punctuated with controversies. From declaring the Iraq War a success, to denouncing media portrayals of World War 1 as ‘left wing versions of the past designed to belittle Britain’. He even became the first Education Secretary in history to be subjected to a vote of no confidence from the nation’s teachers and head-teachers, so it is some achievement that in the past week he has conspired to arguably surpass all of these.
In actual fact, it is astounding that anybody in Gove’s position could have the gall to do what he has. After so overtly stabbing his friend, colleague and hitherto favourite for the Tory leadership Boris Johnson in the back last week, he has begun his own campaign by spouting an ostensibly preposterous mantra of reluctant acceptance. The Scot has spent the past few days trying to convince the public that, after decades of working with Johnson, he arbitrarily decided the night before the candidacy deadline that the former London Mayor was not up to the task of being PM and therefore it should be he instead.
A multitude of quotes have been unearthed of the turncoat professing not to have any desires for Number 10. Gove’s response? Apparently to argue that there are no other plausible candidates and therefore, while he does not really want to, he will stand for the good of the nation. How can he expect the public to believe or comply with this? You would not wish to be on a plane piloted by someone who didn’t want to be there so why would you elect as PM a man similarly disenchanted. It really does beggar belief. Maybe his quip that the public has had enough of experts was really a surreptitious attempt to plant a seed in the national conscience. After all, if an expert Prime Minister is what you’re looking for, you don’t vote for Michael Gove.
It is a sign of the man that he only alerted Johnson of his treachery hours before his announcement. But this was so much more than the average political betrayal, for it is Johnson’s personality and reputation which Gove had parasitically fed off before swallowing whole. The pair may have appeared on platforms all across the country during the referendum campaign, attracting hoards of journalists and camera crews, but it was not the Justice Secretary who they were there for. So often it would be clips of Johnson walking along a factory assembly line that graced narrations of the day’s campaigning. The best Gove could hope for was a background shot where he didn’t look too pompous. Not that he would have cared mind. For as long as he could be associated with this textbook PR machine, his stock would just rise and rise, high enough for him to launch a post-referendum campaign for the leadership.
Perhaps though, Gove is not the driving force behind this late dash for Number 10, could it be that his wife, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, has had something to do with it? Well the evidence is there. Just the day before he announced he was running, Vine misaddressed an email intended for her husband to a member of the public; telling him to seek assurances from Johnson that he would be guaranteed a senior role in his presumptive government before affording him his endorsement. A clear sign of the pair’s megalomaniacal tendencies. This is not the first time though that the journalist has allegedly influenced her marital partner’s political decision making, though. When her employers ran a hatchet job on Ed Miliband’s father Ralph, the publication was lamented almost universally across the political spectrum for its conduct, that is except for Michael Gove. The then Education Minister defended the media’s ‘right to offend’. There is no solid evidence of his wife influencing this standpoint but it is at the very least highly coincidental.
For many, the thought of a Daily Mail columnist having influential power over the PM is a terrifying prospect, even more so the fact that the public may not even be able to prevent this. Fortunately, and rather amazingly, Gove is proving to be too offensive even for the Conservative Party and at the time of writing he is lagging well behind Theresa May in terms of MP nominations. It is likely that Education Minister will remain the peak of his political career and rightfully so but, broadly speaking, the Gove wrecking-ball has already left its mark.
He has become the stereotypical British politician: a narcissistic, perfidious zealot, serving nobody but himself and the power-hungry ego which has come to define him. The cabinet minister will go down as one of the most treacherous individuals in political history, his red, cartoon-like face synonymous with betrayal. More pressing though, is the effect he will have on the younger demographics who are convinced that politics simply will does not serve them. Fewer than 50% of 18-24 year-olds turned out for the EU Referendum and this is hardly likely to improve when Michael Gove is donning the front pages of newspapers and occupying the first minutes of news programmes. The sooner people like him are fished out of the establishment the better.