‘Be your stubborn best,’ advises wife of would-be leader, Michael Gove

Janet Downs's picture

In years to come, the message sent to leading Brexiteer, Michael Gove, by his wife, Sarah Vine, may become to be known as the ‘Lady Macbeth email’.  It reveals how ‘we’, Gove and his wife, discussed, in the Independent’s word, ‘how to manipulate their support’.

But rather than a short, rather bossy email, peppered with CAPITALS, Shakespeare would have been more eloquent:

Justice thou art, and Leaver, and shalt be

What we have desired.  List, then, to my words:

Focus thou on individual obstacles and by opposing, overcome them.

One simple message: seek assurances from him who would be king –

Or, if he will not, say you cannot lend your support.

Without these declarations, your leverage will be less.

Keep this to the foremost of your most excellent mind:

Only your benefaction would reassure the party;

Only your patronage would persuade the opinion formers -

The Thanes of Dacre and Murdoch – to back a bid by Boris and Gove.

Concede not one inch of ground.  Do thou thy most stubborn best.


That was yesterday.  Today, Boris Johnson has left the field.  Michael Gove, in guise of reluctant leader, has entered the leadership fray.  Recent events have laid heavy upon him, his announcement says, but he’s concluded his fellow Leave campaigner, Boris Johnson, has neither leadership nor teambuilding talent (something which Gove seemingly didn't notice when he accompanied Boris in the Brexit battle bus).  He will heal division, he claims, with his plans for unity and change.

 But there’s a looming shadow behind Michael Gove despite his statesmanlike rhetoric: his legacy at the Department for Education.  Launching his leadership bid, he says he wants to bring change. At education he did bring change – a battering ram of policies intended to demolish opposition, however well-argued.    Education reform was pushed through by a man who wanted his own way.  Gove did not unite – he divided.   He did not bring, nor did he desire, consensus.   Gove was not a man to compromise.    

Such an approach may not work with EU negotiators. 

 The DfE under Gove’s tenure had a slippery relationship with the truth.  Education reform was based on propaganda and dishonesty: faulty data, twisted statistics, cherry-picked ‘evidence’.

 In the years ahead, the United Kingdom will need strong but fair leadership.   It will need someone who can negotiate, not one who calls his opponents ‘enemies of promise’ or who labels hitherto respected organisations as ‘Nazis’ because they didn’t agree with him.  It will need someone who can be relied upon to speak truly, not one who ignored warnings not to use faulty data or who, according to David Laws, gave two different government departments different sets of figures to placate them.    It will be someone who can be conciliatory and develop constructive relationships, not someone who sees the world as black and white divided between those who agree with him and those who do not.

 Above all, what the UK does not need is a Macbeth with his unelected Lady goading him from behind






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Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 30/06/2016 - 18:00

I fully agree with Janet.

What a day.  A few hours ago the Guardian published this notice in a 'news item box'. I copied it and posted it on 


Guardian readers and Corbyn
A survey of Guardian readers this week suggests that Corbyn still enjoys a large degree of support among party members, despite reservations about his performance. The survey, conducted by the Guardian community team, received responses from more than 4,000 people: 88% were Labour members and almost 90% voted remain in the referendum. While not scientific the survey does offer a large pool of opinions. Even allowing for the likelihood that a disproportionate number of Corbyn supporters responded, there is much anger at the sniping against him by MPs. Of the respondents, 81% voted for Corbyn last year – and 95% of that number said they intend to vote for him again.

When I returned to the Guardian website a few minutes later the news item had gone and it has not reappeared.

Shortly after, Angela Eagle announced that she was no longer going to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party.

Some connection between the two events seems likely.

I watched Teresa May's announcement of her decision to stand for Prime Minister – very good speech and excellent dealing with questions. I would certainly prefer her to any of the devious, lying and nasty Labour MPs that, rather than challenge Corbyn's leadership through the proper constitutional channels,  have knifed him in the back. As a Labour Party Member, I would judge that most Labour voters would feel the same.

So far from Jeremy Corbyn not being able to win for Labour, I feel he is the only contender with any chance of beating May because he and his supporters would be the only ones offering an alternative. Why vote for a Labour version of ‘one nation’ Conservatism from a disloyal bunch of plotters, when you can have the real thing?

So Gove is to be the Brexit champion Prime Minister candidate.  Sorry, but I can’t see many Labour voters choosing him over Jeremy Corbyn – teachers will certainly be very few on the ground with good reason.

So I hope Jeremy Corbyn sticks to his guns. It is still not too late for the rebellious Labour MPs to pull the party back from the brink. Jeremy Corbyn will rightly win any leadership election. If there is no General Election Jeremy should just ignore them on the strength of his renewed mandate/absence of a proper challenge. If they persist, then their local members will eventually give up on them and deselect them.

What is clear to me is that Paul Mason writing in the Guardian is on the right track in arguing that no Labour leader can now defeat the Conservatives without making alliances with the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Green and the Irish and that those alliances would be easy to make with few ideological hurdles to overcome.

If there is a General Election then Jeremy Corbyn should seek a loyalty pledge from his Labour candidates. If he doesn’t get one he should advise the voters in that constituency to vote for the next best placed candidate in the left alliance that he will by then have formed.

As events unfold Jeremy Corbyn looks more and more like a winner. Most of his MPs will eventually come round to that view. The others shouldn’t be in the Labour Party anyway and are beneath contempt.

I urge all Labour Party members to continue to support Jeremy. If you are not a Labour Party member then this would be a good time to join.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 01/07/2016 - 19:00

The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn by Labour MPs remind me of 'bullying by a clique' in schools and workplaces.

See my article on bullying in schools.

It is not just about schools. Much of it applies to workplace bullying and now very clearly to what Labour MPs are subjecting Jeremy Corbyn to.

It is 'bullying by a clique', who get together and co-ordinate their assaults by making derogatory remarks in concert that can't be defended like, 'you are too ugly to get a boyfriend' (you are unelectable). This can be compounded by all telling the same lies (if all these people are repeating it it must be true). There is no way that Corbyn was responsible for some Labour supporters (actually, unlike Conservative, a minority) voting Brexit. The same smear approach is being used in relation to Corbyn's very reasonably stating that individuals are not responsible for the actions of governments or organisations that claim to represent them - such a fundamentally important principle.

"An overarching ‘Bill of Rights’ is an essential precursor to an effective anti-bullying policy. This is because conflict resolution is then not just a matter of settling, ‘who did/said what’, but more importantly, whether what was done/said was, or was not, in accordance with the ‘Equal Opportunities Policy’. This latter is something that can readily be objectively agreed, whereas the former is more difficult to establish."

In the case of the attacks on Corbyn by the clique of Labour MPs, the 'bill of rights' is very clear. It is the Labour Party constitution. This sets out how the leader of the Party can be changed. Making life as difficult and unpleasant for someone with the deliberate intention of breaking them down and forcing them to give up a position of responsibility is clear bullying by a clique. Corbyn is being very brave in not being cowed and standing up to them.

When David Cameron joined in at PMQ Corbyn referred to him as 'Flashman', The literary comparison is exactly right.

This is why my bullying article is so apt, and why all right minded people that detest bullies should be standing shoulder to shoulder with Jeremy Corbyn and condemning the bullies.

Nothing wrong with thinking someone else would make a better leader. Everything wrong with bullying Corbyn with a clique rather than making an honest challenge through the constititution.

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