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Michael Andrew Gove (/ɡv/; born Graeme Logan; 26 August 1967) is a British Conservative politician who has been Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster since July 2019. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Surrey Heath since 2005. He was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet by David Cameron in 2007 as Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.Gove served in the Cameron governments as Secretary of State for Education from 2010 to 2014[2] and Secretary of State for Justice from 2015 to 2016, and in the second May government as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He has twice run to become Leader of the Conservative Party, in 2016 and 2019, finishing in third place on both occasions.[3]

Michael Gove

Official portrait of Michael Gove crop 2.jpg
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Assumed office
24 July 2019
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byDavid Lidington
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
11 June 2017 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byAndrea Leadsom
Succeeded byTheresa Villiers
Secretary of State for Justice
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
In office
9 May 2015 – 13 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byChris Grayling
Succeeded byElizabeth Truss
Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
In office
15 July 2014 – 9 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byGeorge Young
Succeeded byMark Harper
Secretary of State for Education
In office
12 May 2010 – 15 July 2014
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byEd Balls
Succeeded byNicky Morgan
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
In office
2 July 2007 – 11 May 2010
LeaderDavid Cameron
Preceded byDavid Willetts
Succeeded byEd Balls
Member of Parliament
for Surrey Heath
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded byNick Hawkins
Majority24,943 (43.1%)
Personal details
Graeme Logan

(1967-08-26) 26 August 1967 (age 52)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Political partyConservative
Sarah Vine (m. 2001)
EducationRobert Gordon's College
Alma materLady Margaret Hall, Oxford (BA)

He began a career as an author and journalist, in particular writing for The Times.[4]

The National Association of Head Teachers[5] Association of Teachers and Lecturers, National Union of Teachers and NASUWT passed motions of no confidence in his policies at their conferences in 2013.[6]

In a 2014 Cabinet reshuffle, Gove was moved to the post of Chief Whip.[7][8] Following the 2015 election, Gove was promoted to the office of Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. In 2016, Gove played a major role in the UK's referendum on EU membership as the co-convenor of Vote Leave.[9]

On 30 June 2016, Gove, who was campaign manager for Boris Johnson's leadership bid to become Prime Minister, withdrew his support on the morning that Johnson was due to declare, and announced his own candidacy in the leadership election.[10] Following her appointment as Prime Minister, May sacked him from the position of Justice Secretary on 14 July 2016; however, he returned to the Cabinet following the 2017 general election as Environment Secretary.[11] Upon the election of Johnson as Prime Minister Gove was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with responsibilities including preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Early lifeEdit

Graeme Logan was born in Edinburgh and originally named by his biological mother,[12] whom he originally believed to have been an unmarried Edinburgh student but who was in fact a 23-year-old cookery demonstrator.[13] At the age of four months Logan was adopted by a Labour-supporting couple in Aberdeen, Ernest and Christine Gove, by whom he was brought up.[14] After he joined the Gove family, Logan's name was changed to Michael Andrew Gove.[13] His adoptive father, Ernest, ran a fish processing business and his adoptive mother, Christine, was a lab assistant at the University of Aberdeen, before working at the Aberdeen School for the Deaf.[15]

In Aberdeen, Gove was educated at a state school (Kittybrewster Primary School), and later won a scholarship to the independent Robert Gordon's College.[14] In October 2012, he wrote an apology letter to his former French teacher for misbehaving in class.[16] From 1985 to 1988 he read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, graduating with an upper second.[17][18] During his first year he met future Prime Minister Boris Johnson and helped him become elected President of the Oxford Union.[19] In an interview with Andrew Gimson, Gove remarked that at Oxford, Johnson was "quite the most brilliant extempore speaker of his generation."[20] Gove was elected President of the Oxford Union a year after Johnson.[21]

Journalism careerEdit

Gove became a trainee reporter at The Press and Journal in Aberdeen, where he spent several months on strike in the 1989–1990 dispute over union recognition and representation.[22]

He joined The Times in 1996 as a leader writer and assumed posts as its comment editor, news editor, Saturday editor and assistant editor. He has also written a weekly column on politics and current affairs for the newspaper and contributed to The Times Literary Supplement, Prospect magazine and The Spectator. He remains on good terms with Rupert Murdoch,[23][24] whom Gove described in evidence before the Leveson Inquiry as "one of the most impressive and significant figures of the last 50 years".[25] He wrote a sympathetic biography of Michael Portillo and a critical study of the Northern Ireland peace process (The Price of Peace), which was commissioned by the Charles Douglas-Home Trust.[18][26]

He has worked for the BBC's Today programme, On The Record, Scottish Television and the Channel 4 current affairs programme A Stab in the Dark, alongside David Baddiel and Tracey MacLeod, and was a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze and Newsnight Review on BBC Two.[15][27][28]

Political careerEdit

Gove outside the Palace of Westminster, December 2008

He briefly joined the Labour Party in 1983 in Aberdeen, but has stated that by the time he left to go to Oxford University he was a Tory.[citation needed] Gove joined the Oxford University Conservative Association and was secretary of Aberdeen South Young Conservatives.[29] He helped to write speeches for Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet ministers, including Peter Lilley and Michael Howard.[30] When applying for a job at the Conservative Research Department he was told he was "insufficiently political" and "insufficiently Conservative", so he turned to journalism.[31]

Gove had been[when?] chairman of Policy Exchange, a conservative think tank launched in 2002.[32][33] He was involved in founding the right-leaning magazine Standpoint, to which he occasionally contributes.[34] Gove expressed admiration in late-February 2003 for New Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair because of the way he was handling the crisis in Iraq: "As a right-wing polemicist, all I can say looking at Mr Blair now is, what's not to like?" Blair, he thought, was "behaving like a true Thatcherite".[35]

Member of ParliamentEdit

Gove speaking at the Conservative Party "Big Society, Not Big Government" policy launch

Gove first entered the House of Commons after the 2005 general election having been elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath, after the sitting Conservative MP Nick Hawkins was deselected by the local Conservative Association.[36][37] When David Cameron was first elected as Leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005, he appointed Gove as Shadow Housing Spokesman.[38] Gove is seen as part of an influential set of Conservatives, sometimes referred to as the Notting Hill Set, which includes: former Prime Minister David Cameron, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Edward Vaizey, Nicholas Boles and Rachel Whetstone.[39]

On 2 July 2007, Gove was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (a newly created department set up by Gordon Brown), shadowing Ed Balls. Prior to the 2010 general election, most of Gove's questions in Commons debates concerned children, schools and families, education, local government, council tax, foreign affairs, and the environment.[40]

In June 2012, Michael Portillo backed Gove to be a serious contender in a future race for the Conservative Party leadership,[41] though Gove had said in an interview a few months before that "I'm constitutionally incapable of it. There's a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don't have it. There's an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it's better not to try."[42]

Secretary of State for Education (2010–2014)Edit

Gove as Secretary of State for Education, c. 2012

With the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government following the hung parliament after the 2010 general election, Gove became Secretary of State for Education. His first moves included reorganising his department,[43] announcing plans to allow schools rated as "outstanding" by Ofsted to become academies,[44] and cutting the previous government's school-building programme.[45] He apologised, however, when the list of terminated school-building projects he had released was found to be inaccurate; the list was reannounced several times before it was finally accurately published.[46]

In July 2010, Gove said that Labour had failed in their attempt to break the link between social class and school achievement despite spending billions of pounds: quoting research, he indicated that by the age of six years, children of low ability from affluent homes were still out-performing brighter children from poorer backgrounds. At a House of Commons Education Select Committee he said that this separation of achievement grew larger throughout pupils' school careers, stating, "In effect, rich thick kids do better than poor clever children when they arrive at school [and] the situation as they go through gets worse".[47]

Building Schools for the Future and school capital projectsEdit

In February 2011, a judicial review deemed Gove's decision to axe Building Schools for the Future (BSF) projects in six local authority areas was unlawful as he had failed to consult before imposing the cuts.[48] The judge also said that, in five of the cases, the failure was "so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power" and that "however pressing the economic problems, there was no overriding public interest which precluded consultation or justifies the lack of any consultation".[48] The councils' response was that the government would have to reconsider but the government said it had won the case on the substantial issues.[48] The judge made clear that, contrary to the councils' position, they could not expect that their projects would be funded.[48]

In March 2011, Gove was criticised for not understanding the importance of school architecture and having misrepresented the cost.[49] In February 2011, he gave "not-quite-true information to Parliament" by saying that one individual made £1,000,000 in one year when the true figure was £700,000 for five advisers at different times over a four-year period.[49] He told a Free Schools conference that "no one in this room is here to make architects richer" and specifically mentioned architect Richard Rogers.[50]

Exam and curriculum reformsEdit

Gove's views on exam systems became clear in December 2014 after the release of archive papers from 1986. GCSEs were the brainchild of Sir Keith Joseph, and Margaret Thatcher, believing they lacked rigour, fiercely opposed them. However, opposition to the new exams from the teaching unions persuaded her to introduce them immediately, purely so as not to appear weak. Although Gove had sought but failed to replace them, his special advisor, Dominic Cummings, described the 1986 decision as catastrophic, leading to a collapse in the integrity of the exam system.[51]

During the 2010 Conservative Party Conference, Gove announced that the primary and secondary-school national curricula for England would be restructured, and that study of authors such as Byron, Keats, Jane Austen, Dickens and Thomas Hardy would be reinstated in English lessons as part of a plan to improve children's grasp of English literature and language. Academies are not required to follow the national curriculum, and so would not be affected by the reforms. Children who fail to write coherently and grammatically, and who are weak in spelling, would be penalised under new examinations. Historian Simon Schama would give advice to government to ensure that pupils learnt Britain's "island story". Standards in mathematics and science would also be strengthened. He said that this was needed because left-wing ideologues had undermined education. Theirs was the view, he thought, that schools "shouldn't be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics. These ideologues may have been inspired by generous ideals but the result of their approach has been countless children condemned to a prison house of ignorance".[52]

In a November 2010 white paper, Gove declared reforms would include the compulsory study of foreign languages up to the age of sixteen years, a shake-up of league tables in which schools are ranked higher for the number of pupils taking GCSEs[53] in five core subjects (English, mathematics, science, a language and one of the humanities), and the introduction of targets for primary schools. It proposed that trainee teachers should spend more time in the classroom, teacher training applicants should be more rigorously tested — including tests of character and emotional intelligence — and sponsorships for former troops to retrain as teachers to improve discipline. It also said teachers would receive guidance on how to search pupils for more items, including mobile phones and pornography, and when they can use force.[54]

Gove, as Education Secretary, at Chantry High School, Ipswich

In April 2011, Gove criticised schools for not studying pre-twentieth century classics and blamed "England's constricted and unreformed exam system" for failing to encourage children to read. Gove also blamed an "anti-knowledge culture" for reducing achievement and said children benefited when expectations were set higher.[55] In June 2011, his "ignorance of science" was criticised[by whom?] after he called for students to have "a rooting in the basic scientific principles" and by way of example assigned Lord Kelvin's laws of thermodynamics to Sir Isaac Newton.[56]

In June 2012, the Daily Mail published leaked plans to scrap GCSE examinations, return to O-level exams and allow less able students to take less academic qualifications. The Liberal Democrats claimed that the plans had not been discussed with the Deputy Prime Minister and were subsequently heavily criticised by some teachers, trade unions and Labour Party MPs;[57][58][59] they had been discussed with the Prime Minister at Cabinet level, and a subsequent YouGov/Sunday Times poll suggested that the public supported this policy by a margin of 50% to 32%.[60][61] They received praise from the then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who said that he "could be... singing a hymn of praises for my old chum Gove and his brilliant new Gove-levels."[62] The leaked documents also suggested that Gove was intending to create a single exam board to organise all exams, and to scrap the National Curriculum in its current form. However, there were "rebukes" from both the Welsh and Northern Ireland Education ministers who said it was important to communicate before making announcements on proposed changes to jointly owned qualifications.[63]

In February 2013, shortly after the draft Programmes of Study for History in the national curriculum was released by the DfE,[64] the representatives of the principal organisations for historians in the UK wrote to The Observer to register "significant reservations" about its contents and the way in which it had been devised. They described it as "too narrowly and exclusively focused on British history" and argued that structuring history teaching in a strictly chronological sequence meant that students would learn about pre-modern history only in the early stages of their studies.[65]

In March 2013, 100 academics wrote an open letter arguing that Gove's curriculum placed too much emphasis upon memorisation of facts and rules over understanding, and would lead to more rote learning.[66] Gove retorted that "there is good academia and bad academia."[67] In response, one signatory to the letter opined that Gove suffered from a "blinkered, almost messianic, self-belief, which appears to have continually ignored the expertise and wisdom of teachers, head-teachers, advisers and academics, whom he often claims to have consulted",[68] A senior civil servant admitted that one of the most controversial parts of the proposed secondary curriculum had been written internally by the DfE, without any input from experts.[69]

In May, Simon Schama, earlier mooted as a supporter of Gove's reforms of the history curriculum, delivered an excoriating speech in which he characterised the finalised proposals as "insulting and offensive" and "pedantic and utopian", accusing Gove of constructing a "ridiculous shopping list" of subjects. He urged the audience at the Hay Festival: "Tell Michael Gove what you think of it. Let him know."[70] In June, leaked documents revealed that a member of the government's curriculum advisory group had described the reform process as having had "a very chaotic feel. It's typical of government policy at the moment: they don't think things through very carefully, they don't listen to anyone and then just go ahead and rush into major changes."[71] In September, Robin Alexander said that the proposed reforms to the primary-level national curriculum were "neo Victorian", "educationally inappropriate and pedagogically counter-productive".[72] In October, almost 200 people, including: Carol Ann Duffy, Melvin Burgess and Michael Rosen, as well as academics from Oxford, Bristol and Newcastle universities signed a letter to The Times condemning Gove's reforms, warning of the "enormous" and negative risks they posed to children and their education.[73]

That same month saw Oxford's head of admissions warn that the timetable for secondary-level reforms would "just wreck the English education system."[74]

2012 English GCSE resultsEdit

In September 2012, following the furore surrounding the downgrading of GCSE English results, he refused, during his answers to the Parliamentary Education Committee on 12 September, to instruct Ofqual to intervene, and attacked his Welsh counterpart as "irresponsible and mistaken" for ordering disputed GCSEs to be regraded.[75] On 17 September he announced to the House of Commons an English Baccalaureate Certificate to replace GCSE, comprising English, Maths, Science, together with a Humanities subject and language, to be first examined in 2017. His plans to replace GCSE examinations with an English Baccalaureate were rejected by Parliament in February 2013.[76]

Education vouchersEdit

As Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Gove advocated the introduction of a Swedish-style voucher system, whereby parents can choose where their child should be educated, with the state paying what they would have cost in a state-school. He has also advocated Swedish-style free schools, to be managed by parents and funded by the state,[77] with the possibility that such schools may be allowed to be run on a for-profit model.[78]

Creationist schoolsEdit

In June 2012, Gove approved three creationist schools, including Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland,[79] which opened in September 2012. This led to concerns about whether Department for Education (DfE) requirements not to teach creationism or intelligent design as science would be met.[80] The other creationist schools included Exemplar-Newark Business Academy, whose previous application was rejected because of concerns over creationism, and a third school in Kent. Both schools said they would teach creationism in RE but not in Science.[80]

The British Humanist Association (BHA) said teaching creationism in any syllabus was unacceptable.[80] In 2014, Gove's department acceded to the BHA's campaign by banning creationism from being taught as science in state-funded English schools, including Academies and Free Schools, as well as introducing a requirement that such schools must teach evolution.[81]

Gove at Policy Exchange in 2013

Children's homes scandal and data protection rulesEdit

In September 2013, news that the DfE did not maintain a register of children's homes in the UK came to light as a result of an article Gove wrote for The Daily Telegraph. Gove asserted his prior ignorance and surprise that the department did not hold this information and claimed that "Ofsted was prevented by 'data protection' rules, 'child protection' concerns and other bewildering regulations from sharing that data with us, or even with the police".[82]

Gove's claim was refuted the same day by the Information Commissioner, Sir Christopher Graham, who pointed out there was "nothing" in data protection legislation that prevents vulnerable young people from being properly protected in care homes. Graham noted that "[t]his law covers information about people so it has no bearing on the disclosure of non-personal information like the location of care homes", and said he would be writing to both Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw about the matter.[83]

Social work trainingEdit

In November 2013 Gove delivered a speech to the NSPCC in which he argued that social work training involved 'idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society'. Gove held that students were being 'encouraged to see [service users] as victims of social injustice whose fate is overwhelmingly decreed by the economic forces and inherent inequalities which scar our society'. Gove suggested that the intellectual demands of many social work courses should be raised. Gove explained that the training of social workers was of personal importance to him because his own life had been transformed by social workers as a result of his adoption at the age of four months old.[84][85]

While serving as Education Secretary, Gove asked Sir Martin Narey, a former director general of prisons and chief executive of Barnardo's, to conduct a review of social work education. Sir Martin subsequently made 18 recommendations, which he said could be implemented at "minimal cost", for the reform of social work education. Sir Martin called for more emphasis to be placed on practical skills and suggested that some of the students recruited were not up to the job. Sir Martin found that course standards varied widely and called for tighter minimum entry standards and the standardisation of the teaching provided to social work students.[84][86]

Birmingham schools rowEdit

In June 2014, a very public argument arose between the Home Office and Department for Education Ministers about responsibility for alleged extremism in Birmingham schools,[87][88] which required PM David Cameron's intervention to resolve.[89]

The Prime Minister asked Gove to apologise to Home Office Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism Head Charles Farr for briefings critical of him which appeared on The Times front page.[90]

Criticism from the teaching professionEdit

Gove was criticised by teachers unions for his attempts to overhaul British education. At the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Annual Conference in March 2013 a motion of no-confidence in Gove was passed.[91] This was followed up the next month at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Gove and called for his resignation.[citation needed]

The audience at the NUT conference were told[by whom?] that Gove had "lost the confidence of the teaching profession", "failed to conduct his duties in a manner befitting the head of a national education system", and "chosen to base policy on dogma, political rhetoric and his own limited experience of education."[6] Gove was further criticised at the May 2013 conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), for what they claimed was a climate of bullying, fear and intimidation during his time as Education Secretary. The conference passed a vote of no confidence in his policies.[5]

Changes to pay, pensions, and workloads were also controversial. The NUT and NASUWT staged strikes on a regional basis in October 2013,[92][93] although a national strike was averted.[94] After talks failed,[95][96] strike action affecting 10,000 schools took place in March 2014.[97]

Sarah Vine, Gove's wife, accused socialists of sending their family "vicious and aggressive" death threats due to Gove's education reforms, and said she had considered moving with their two children to Italy as a result of said threats.[98] Before the coalition government, in 2010, a YouGov poll of teachers' voting intentions found that 33% were Tory and 32% were Labour; four years later, a poll found that only 16% were Tory and 57% were Labour.[25]

Chief Whip of the House of Commons (2014–2015)Edit

On 15 July 2014, Gove's four-year stint in charge of the Department for Education came to an end when he was replaced as Secretary of State for Education by former Treasury Minister Nicky Morgan in a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle and moved to the post of Government Chief Whip.[7] This was portrayed as a demotion by his detractors, although Prime Minister David Cameron denied this was the case.[8] Gove told BBC News that he had mixed emotions about starting the new role, saying it was a privilege to become Chief Whip but that leaving the Department for Education was "a wrench".[99][100][101]

The position came with a £30,000 pay cut, and a specific media role saw Gove on television and radio "more than a traditional Chief Whip would be".[102] He missed his first House of Commons vote in the new role, as explained by Shadow Commons Leader Angela Eagle; "Gove not only lost his first vote but managed to get stuck in the toilet in the wrong lobby".[103] Gove remained in the post of Chief Whip until May 2015, when the role was taken over by Mark Harper.

Secretary of State for Justice (2015–2016)Edit

After the 2015 general election, Prime Minister David Cameron promoted Gove as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary in his newly formed Cabinet.[104] He was praised in December 2015 for scrapping the courts fee introduced by his predecessor, Chris Grayling.[105] The fee had been heavily criticised for, among other things, causing innocent people to plead guilty out of financial concerns.[106] Gove removed the 12-book limit on prison books introduced by Grayling, arguing that books increased literacy and numeracy, skills needed for making prisoners a "potential asset to society". The move, effective from September 2015, was welcomed by Frances Cook of the Howard League for Penal Reform.[107] Gove was also praised for his prominent role in scrapping a British bid for a Saudi prison contract.[108]

Within three months of his taking office, the Criminal Bar Association voted to stop taking new work in protest at Gove's insistence that they work for lower fees.[109] The CBA subsequently praised his "courage" in reversing the proposed cuts.[110] On 14 July 2016 Gove was removed from the position of Justice Secretary by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May.[111]

European Union membership referendum (2016)Edit

Gove described his decision to campaign for Britain to leave the EU in the EU referendum as "the most difficult decision of my political life".[112] He and his family spent Christmas with the Camerons at Chequers where, according to Craig Oliver, Cameron got the impression that Gove would support remaining in the EU.[113] He argued Britain would be "freer, fairer and better off" for leaving.[112] When in an interview it was claimed that there was no expert opinion to support this, Gove remarked that "the people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong."[114] However, interviewer Faisal Islam interrupted Gove after the word "experts",[115] causing some sources to report that he had made a general statement that "the people... have had enough of experts".[116]

In December 2016 Gove repeated the controversial Vote Leave claim that an additional £350 million a week could be spent on the NHS when Britain left the EU but said it was up to the Government to decide how to spend it.[117]

In his memoir For the Record, David Cameron described Gove during this period as "mendacious", adding: "One quality shone through, disloyalty. Disloyalty to me and, later, disloyalty to Boris [Johnson]".[118]

Conservative Party leadership candidate (2016)Edit

After David Cameron announced his intention to resign as Prime Minister, with his successor now likely to be in office by September 2016, Gove was not a candidate, having said in the past that he had no interest in becoming Prime Minister.[119] Instead, he was seen as a strong, highly influential supporter of Boris Johnson for that role. In a move that surprised most political analysts, Gove withdrew his support for Johnson on 30 June 2016, hours before the deadline, without any previous notice to Johnson and announced his own candidacy in the leadership election. Subsequently, Johnson declined to run.[120]

The Daily Telegraph opined that Gove's actions in undermining Johnson's leadership aspirations constituted "the most spectacular political assassination in a generation"[121] while The Guardian labelled it as a "Machiavellian move".[122]

Gove said: "I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future. But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership. I want there to be an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take. Whatever the verdict of that debate I will respect it. In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change."[123]

By 5 July 2016, Gove was in third place in the 2016 Conservative Party (UK) leadership election behind Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom; the latter had gained an endorsement from Boris Johnson. Some political analysts predicted that Gove might quit the race if he was unable to beat Leadsom in the first round of voting.[124] Later that day, it was announced that Theresa May won the first round of voting, with support from 165 MPs, while Andrea Leadsom received 66 votes and Gove trailed with 48.[10]

Gove was eliminated in the second ballot after receiving 46 votes, compared to 199 for Theresa May and 84 for Andrea Leadsom.[125] He subsequently told the media that he was "naturally disappointed" and described his two opponents as "formidable politicians", welcoming the fact that the next PM would be female. He also encouraged a "civilised, inclusive, positive and optimistic debate".[126]

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2017–2019)Edit

In May 2016, Gove voted not to reduce the permitted carbon dioxide emission rate of new homes.[127]

After the 2017 general election, Gove was promoted to Environment Secretary by Prime Minister Theresa May during a reshuffle. Gove said he "was quite surprised" to be asked to join the cabinet after May sacked him in 2016 after she became Prime Minister.[128]

After his appointment, Gove announced that a microbead ban would be put into place by the end of 2017. The ban arrived in early 2018. This meant manufacturers could no longer produce the tiny beads that are used in cosmetics and care products. Another ban came in June 2018 which stops shops from selling products that contain the beads. The reasoning behind the ban is to stop the beads harming marine life.[129]

In 2017 after being appointed to Secretary of Environment, Gove announced that a fuel combustion vehicle ban will be put into place due to air pollution. The ban will take effect by 2040. This ban will end the sales of new fuel combustion cars, trucks, vans, and buses that have petrol and diesel engines in the UK. The ban does not include plug-in hybrid vehicles. The reason of the ban is to reduce pollution and carbon emissions from the atmosphere in order stop the endangerment and deaths of people, animals, and plants caused by the pollution and carbon emissions. This also means that the future of transportation in the UK will be plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.[130]

He introduced a ban on bee-harming pesticides.[131]

He was praised by Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven for his strong stance on issues like bee-harming pesticides, single-use plastic bottles and the future of the internal combustion engine", adding "Gove has defied many people’s expectations on the environment".[132]

Gove faced criticism over the appointment of Ben Goldsmith to the role of non-executive director[133] at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as Goldsmith had previously donated cash to Gove's Surrey Heath constituency.[134] Concerns were also raised about the selection process for the job, which was overseen by Sir Ian Cheshire, the chairman of Goldsmith's investment firm, Menhaden Capital Management.[134]

An important aspect of his tenure was the introduction of laws concerning animal welfare. Animal cruelty maximum sentences increased, as did protection for animals used by government services, such as police dogs and horses.[135] One of the "toughest worldwide bans" on ivory trade was also introduced in 2018.[136]

In January 2019, Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence in her government, after a "barnstorming" speech from Gove directed towards the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.[137] The speech, which gained significant media attention, attacked Corbyn for his foreign policy record, with the Washington Examiner describing it as "A tour de force. It was angry but not fanatical, passionate but not somber, and intellectual but simply put".[138]

In April 2019, Gove refused to declare a climate emergency in the United Kingdom after having a meeting with Extinction Rebellion.[139] Despite Gove's refusal, Parliament passed a motion to declare a climate emergency.[140]

In March 2019, Gove argued that "we didn't vote to leave without a deal. That wasn't the message of the campaign I helped lead. During that campaign, we said we should do a deal with the EU and be part of the network of free trade deals that covers all Europe, from Iceland to Turkey".[141]

Conservative Party leadership candidate (2019)Edit

On 26 May 2019, Gove announced he would stand for the Conservative leadership following Theresa May's resignation, becoming the eighth candidate to enter the contest.[142] He promised to remove the charge for UK citizenship applications from EU nationals if elected,[143] and to replace VAT with a "simpler sales tax".[144] He also planned to scrap the High Speed 2 rail project and increase school funding by £1 billion.[145]

By 5 June, Boris Johnson became the clear frontrunner with the bookmakers, with Gove second favourite, followed closely by Jeremy Hunt.[146] Gove progressed following the first ballot, having received 37 votes and seen off the two women in the contest. He received 41 votes in the second ballot, and by the third ballot had 51 MPs backing him. The fourth ballot saw him gain 61 votes, moving him into second position. In the last ballot, he had 75 votes and was voted out - losing only 2 to Jeremy Hunt.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2019–present)Edit

Gove with former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton in August 2019

Upon the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, Gove was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, legally representing the Crown as Duke of Lancaster.[147] His otherwise non-portfolio role includes responsibility for no-deal Brexit preparations, as well as overseeing constitutional affairs, maintaining the integrity of the Union and having oversight over all Cabinet Office policy.[148][149] Gove was excluded from a place on the National Security Council committee as Johnson pursued a slimming down of Cabinet operations.[150] He became a central figure in the conduction of Operation Yellowhammer, the civil contingency planning for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Writing in The Sunday Times on 28 July, Gove said that a no-deal Brexit is "now a very real prospect" and one that the government is "working on the assumption of".[151][152] He said in August that it was "wrong and sad" that the EU was "refusing to negotiate" over a new withdrawal agreement.[153] That month, an official cabinet Yellowhammer document leaked, predicting that a no-deal Brexit would lead to food, medicine and petrol shortages. Gove said the leaked dossier outlined a "worst-case scenario".[154]

Interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show, Gove refused to say whether the government would abide by legislation designed to stop a no-deal Brexit.[155]

A portrait of Gove was installed by the anti-Brexit campaign group Led by Donkeys on a beach in Redcar, North Yorkshire. The drawing featured a quote from Gove in which he said the UK "didn't vote to leave without a deal" in the 2016 referendum.[156]


Expenses claimsEdit

Over a five-month period between December 2005 and April 2006, Michael Gove claimed more than £7,000 on a house bought with his wife Sarah Vine, a journalist, in 2002. Around a third of the money was spent at OKA, an upmarket interior design company established by Viscountess Astor, PM David Cameron's mother-in-law.[157] Shortly afterwards he reportedly 'flipped' his designated second home, a property for which he claimed around £13,000 to cover stamp duty.[158] Gove also claimed for a cot mattress, despite children's items being banned under updated Commons Rules. Gove said he would repay the claim for the cot mattress, but maintained that his other claims were "below the acceptable threshold costs for furniture" and that moving house was necessary "to effectively discharge my parliamentary duties".[158] While he was moving between homes, on one occasion he stayed at the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa in Bagshot, Surrey following a constituency engagement, charging the taxpayer more than £500 per night's stay.[158]

Gove's second home was not in his constituency, but in Elstead, in the South West Surrey constituency. Gove has sold the house and now commutes to his constituency.[159]

Freedom of Information and emailEdit

Gove has been the subject of repeated criticism for alleged attempts to avoid the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The criticism surrounds Gove's use of various private email accounts to send emails that allegedly relate to his departmental responsibilities. The allegations suggest that Gove and his advisers believed they could avoid their correspondence being subject to Freedom of Information requests, as they believed that their private email accounts were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. In September 2011, the Financial Times reported that Gove had used an undisclosed private email account – called ‘Mrs Blurt’ – to discuss government business with advisers.[160][161]

In March 2012 the Information Commissioner ruled that because emails the Financial Times had requested contained public information they could be the subject of a Freedom of Information request and ordered the information requested by the paper to be disclosed.[162][163] Gove was also advised to cease the practice of using private email accounts to conduct government business. He disputed the Information Commissioner's ruling and proceeded to tribunal, costing taxpayers £12,540 in fees for legal advice,[164] but the appeal was withdrawn.[165]

It was also alleged by the Financial Times that Gove and his advisors had destroyed email correspondence in order to avoid Freedom of Information requests. The allegation was denied by Gove's department who stated that deleting email was simply part of good computer housekeeping.[166][167]

First World War centenaryEdit

In a controversial article about the First World War centenary in January 2014,[168] Gove criticised academic and television interpretations of World War I as "left-wing versions of the past designed to belittle Britain and its leaders."[169][170]

Some of Gove's key points were rebuffed by the academics that Gove had used to support his thesis. Gove had criticised Cambridge professor Sir Richard Evans saying his views were more like that of an undergraduate cynic in a Footlights review. Instead he urged people to listen to Margaret MacMillan of Oxford University. MacMillan responded, saying: "I agree with some of what Mr Gove says, but he is mistaking myths for rival interpretations of history. I did not say, as Mr Gove suggests, that British soldiers in the First World War were consciously fighting for a western liberal order. They were just defending their homeland and fighting what they saw as German militarism."[171] Evans said Gove's attack was "ignorant" and asked how anyone could possibly say Britons were fighting for freedom given their country's main ally was Tsarist Russia.[172] Jeremy Paxman said Gove had "wilfully misquoted" Evans on the subject of the First World War.[173]

Trump interviewEdit

In his capacity as a writer for The Times, Gove gave the first British post-election interview to Donald Trump in January 2017, along with Kai Diekmann from Bild,[174][175] making him the second British politician to meet Trump as President-elect of the United States after Nigel Farage.[4] Despite preferring Hillary Clinton to Trump as President of the United States,[176] Gove's interview and consequent defence of it has been seen by some as praising the President-elect unduly,[177] and a photograph of Gove giving a "thumbs-up" to Trump was widely mocked on social media.[178]

Harvey Weinstein jokeEdit

In October 2017, Gove issued an apology for a joke which compared going on the Today programme with a sexual encounter with Harvey Weinstein.[179][180] He was criticised by MPs of all parties who felt allegations of sexual abuse were not a suitable subject for jokes.[181]


In June 2019, reports emerged that Gove had taken cocaine as a journalist in his twenties.[182][183] Gove stated that he regretted having done so, and regarded it as having been a mistake.[182][183] In an article for The Times in December 1999, Gove argued against the legalization of drugs, criticizing members of the middle classes for their hypocrisy in doing so.[184] This was a key component of his 2019 bid to be Leader of the Conservative Party. In reaction, Craig Oliver said it would have a negative impact on his run whereas fellow candidate for leadership Dominic Raab said that he "admires [Gove's] honesty".[185]

Political stancesEdit

Gove is generally considered as combining socially liberal views — for example, on gay marriage[186] — with a harder Eurosceptic and neoconservative position on foreign affairs.[25] He has expressed his view that the state should generally not interfere in domestic affairs and attests to have campaigned for economic freedom in certain matters. Gove has argued that "the only sustainable ethical foundation for society is a belief in the innate worth and dignity of every individual."[187] Giving evidence before the Leveson Inquiry in May 2012, Gove said he was "unashamedly on the side of those who say that we should think very carefully before legislation and regulation because the cry 'Something must be done' often leads to people doing something which isn't always wise."[188]

During the 2008 Conservative Party Conference, Gove argued that Edmund Burke, an 18th-century philosopher who commented on organic society and the French Revolution, was the greatest conservative ever. When asked about those who believe "Marx was right all along", he responded that they were guilty of ignoring the systematic abuses and poverty of centrally planned economies, and criticised the historian Eric Hobsbawm, saying that "only when Hobsbawm weeps hot tears for a life spent serving an ideology of wickedness will he ever be worth listening to."[189]

Capital punishmentEdit

In 1997, Gove wrote in support of bringing back hanging as capital punishment, which was abolished in the UK in 1965, although he has not repeated such views since. Writing in The Times, Gove argued "Were I ever alone in the dock I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeited as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose."[190]

Foreign policyEdit

The Financial Times describes Gove as having "strong neoconservative convictions".[25] He proposed that the 2003 invasion of Iraq would bring peace and democracy both to Iraq and the wider Middle East. In December 2008, he wrote that declarations of either victory or defeat in Iraq in 2003 were premature, and that the liberation of Iraq was a foreign policy success.

The liberation of Iraq has actually been that rarest of things – a proper British foreign policy success. Next year, while the world goes into recession, Iraq is likely to enjoy 10% GDP growth. Alone in the Arab Middle East, it is now a fully functioning democracy with a free press, properly contested elections and an independent judiciary ... Sunni and Shia contend for power in parliament, not in street battles. The ingenuity, idealism and intelligence of the Iraqi people can now find an outlet in a free society rather than being deployed, as they were for decades, simply to ensure survival in a fascist republic that stank of fear.[191]

Tariq Ali once recalled how, at the time of the Iraq War, he "debat[ed] the ghastly Gove on television [... and found him] worse than most Bush apologists in the United States."[192]

In 2003, he stated that he did not believe the United States' "current position in the world [was] analogous to that of an Imperial power, as we have come to understand imperial powers".[193]

He had to be calmed down by parliamentary colleagues in August 2013 after shouting, "A disgrace, you're a disgrace!" at various Conservative and Liberal Democrat rebels who contributed to defeating the coalition government's motion to attack Syria in retaliation for the 2013 Ghouta attacks.[194] He later stated he was reacting to the manner in which Labour MPs celebrated the outcome of the vote.[195]

William Dalrymple, reviewing Gove's book Celsius 7/7 in The Times, dismissed Gove's knowledge of the Middle East as being derivative and based on the views of Bernard Lewis.[196] Gove distinguishes between "the great historical faith" of Islam, which he says has "brought spiritual nourishment to millions", and Islamism, a "totalitarian ideology" that turns to "hellish violence and oppression," likening Islamism to Nazism and Communism.[197]

In 2015, Gove cancelled a £5.9 million contract to provide services for prisons in Saudi Arabia, according to The Guardian, because it was thought "the British government should not be assisting a regime that uses beheadings, stoning, crucifixions and lashings as forms of punishment." Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was reported[by whom?] to have accused Gove of being naive.[198]

Israel and Jewish peopleEdit

Gove has described himself as "a proud Zionist",[199] and supports the United Jewish Israel Appeal's fundraising activities.[200] In 2019, he reiterated "One thing I have always been since I was a boy is a Zionist." and spoke of his desire to "celebrate everything that Israel and the Jewish people have brought to the life of this world and hold it dear to our hearts." and that "For as long as I have breath in my body and a platform on which to argue I shall be on your side, by your side and delighted and honoured to argue, powerfully I hope, on behalf of people who have contributed so powerfully to the life of this nation."[201]

Gove is, like the great majority of UK Conservative Party MPs, a member of Conservative Friends of Israel.[202] He has said that boycotting Israel is anti-Semitic.[203] Gove said that jihadist terrorists "hate Israel, and they wish to wipe out the Jewish people's home, not because of what Israel does but because of what Israel is – free, democratic, liberal and western."[203]


Gove is one of several Conservative MPs who co-authored Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party (2005).[204][205] The book says the NHS "fails to meet public expectations" and calls for it to be dismantled and replaced with personal health accounts.[204] Gove fractured his foot in July 2015. His wife Sarah Vine inaccurately complained in her Daily Mail column that he could not have his foot X-rayed by the NHS because the minor injuries unit the couple visited did not provide the facility at weekends.[206][207]


Noting the singing of the "deliberately anti-Catholic rant", the Famine Song at Rangers-Celtic matches, Gove credited Cardinal Keith O'Brien with using his intellect to protect the vulnerable in Scotland whilst regretting the absence of a similar figure in the Kirk.[208]

He was behind plans to provide schools throughout England and Wales with a copy of the King James Bible (inscribed "presented by the Secretary of State for Education") to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its translation into English, though he said he backed the scheme because of the historical and cultural significance of that translation rather than on purely religious grounds.[209][210] In April 2015, he described his faith in an article for The Spectator magazine. In widely reported remarks, he complained that "to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal."[211][212]

In 2016, he credited his Christian faith for his focus as Justice Minister on redemption and rehabilitation.[213]

Other viewsEdit

Gove's proposal for a new Royal Yacht costing £60 million was made public in January 2012.[214] Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg criticised the idea, calling it "a case of the haves and the have yachts".[215]

Gove believes that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom, arguing that Scotland's strengths complement those of other parts of the UK.[216]

While deeply critical of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Gove believes that "there have also been more benign empires, and in that I would include, almost pre-eminently, the British."[193] In March 2014, he described the concentration of Old Etonians at the top of the Conservative coalition as "ridiculous. I don't know where you can find a similar situation in any other developed economy."[25]

In popular cultureEdit

Gove was a member of the winning team in Grampian Television's quiz show Top Club,[217] and played the school chaplain in the 1995 family comedy A Feast at Midnight.[218][219]

Gove was portrayed by actor Oliver Maltman in the 2019 HBO and Channel 4 produced drama entitled Brexit: The Uncivil War.[220][221]

Personal lifeEdit

Gove is married to journalist Sarah Vine, who formerly wrote for The Times[222] and in 2013 became a Daily Mail columnist.[223] They have two children.

Gove is a supporter of Queens Park Rangers Football Club.[224]

He stated he was "Christian and proud of it" at a talk to pupils at Westminster School in 2012.


  • Celsius 7/7 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006).
  • A Blue Tomorrow: New Visions for Modern Conservatives (London: Politico's, 2001; ed. with Edward Vaizey and Nicholas Boles).
  • The Price of Peace: an analysis of British policy in Northern Ireland (London: Centre for Policy Studies, 2000).
  • Oliver, Craig (2016). Unleashing Daemons. The Inside Story of Brexit. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 978-1-473-65247-7.
  • Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right (London: Fourth Estate, 1995).

Further readingEdit

  • Bennett, Owen (2019). Michael Gove: A Man In A Hurry. Biteback Publishing ISBN 978-1785904400.


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