From ‘Nazi’ to saviour in a couple of weeks: the flip-flopping of Michael Gove
Experts who warned Brexit could cause economic problems were described by Michael Gove as being like the Nazi scientists paid by Hitler’s government to denounce Einstein. One of these experts was Mark Carney, Bank of England governor.
But in his leadership bid speech, Gove praised the man he had smeared:
‘I want in particular to pay tribute to the Governor of the Bank of England for making it clear that Britain is prepared for this transition.’
Mark Carney could be forgiven for rolling his eyes. He warned there could be a financial mess if the UK voted to leave the EU. Gove called him a Nazi for doing so. But now Carney is no longer a Fascist in government pay. He is a saviour for having the prescience to compile a post-Referendum plan should the UK vote to leave – a plan aimed at minimising any mess which might follow if the Referendum vote went Gove’s way.
But at least Carney had a plan. Gove’s speech was long on emotion, beliefs and visions but short on what he would actually do. He presented an extensive list of what ‘We’ need: ‘bold leadership’; ‘change’, ‘radicalism and ambition’. But firm promises were few: cut VAT on domestic fuel; at least another £100 million per week for the NHS by 2020, stop free movement and (here’s a surprise) take us out of the EU.
It’s not the first time Gove has flip-flopped:
- The experts he chose for the National Curriculum Review would be ‘innovative and inspiring education academics.’ But they disagreed with him and were denounced as professors toadying favour with the Labour party.
- He was forced to retract his statement during the Referendum campaign that the UK would not have left the EU by 2020.
- In 2012 he said he was ‘open-minded’ about allowing England’s schools to be run for profit. But two years previously, he’d made up his mind. He told Policy Exchange he would let groups like Serco run schools.
Finally, there’s the flip-flop described as treacherous: Gove’s last-minute decision that Boris Johnson was unfit for leadership. But David Laws, in his book Coalition, reveals that Johnson’s flakiness was apparent in 2012. He describes (pp165-6) an Education Reform summit hosted by Gove. The Spanish education minister, who was in conversation with Laws, introduced herself to Johnson. When she told him where she came from, Johnson said how Brussels was one of his favourite places. The Spanish minister asked Johnson if he’d actually visited Spain. ‘Ah, Spain? Spain... I must have been there! Hot, isn’t it? Yes, very, very hot!’ Johnson then left her to pose for a selfie with a star-struck young teacher. Later, Johnson made a speech in which he ‘systematically’ insulted most of London’s population.
Gove may not have witnessed Johnson’s gaffe with the Spanish minister, but he would have heard his speech. And it’s highly likely he would have read Laws’ book. This undermines Gove’s claim he was unaware of Johnson’s personality faults until just before Johnson was due to announce his leadership bid.
A flip-flopping prime minister, one who switches from fulsome praise to name-calling (or vice-versa), one whose behaviour has cast doubts on his integrity and one who has attracted accusations of plotting and intrigue, is not one with the qualities to lead the UK.