James Forsyth

Contrary to what Cameron and Osborne say, Gove hasn’t been an Outer for 30 years

Contrary to what Cameron and Osborne say, Gove hasn't been an Outer for 30 years
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David Cameron and George Osborne have responded to Michael Gove’s decision to campaign for Out by saying that he has wanted to leave the EU for thirty years. But as Vote Leave are pointing out, Gove has not been an Outer for that long.

When he was a journalist, Gove was actually arguing that Britain should, ultimately, stay in the EU. In 1996, he wrote in The Times that ‘It is still in Britain’s interest to stay in the EU.’

So, why are Cameron and Osborne saying that Gove has been an Outer for thirty years? I suspect it is because they want to paint Gove’s belief that Britain should leave as purely ideological when, in fact, it has largely been driven by his experience in government and seeing just how much the EU and the ECJ constrained ministers' freedom of action.

The Tory leadership need to tread carefully here. I suspect that the more that they try to define Gove—Cameron characterised him as the epitome of the establishment on Marr—the more that he will end up doing for the Out campaign.


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Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Isabel Hardman will be discussing the EU Referendum campaign campaign with pollster Ben Page from Ipsos Mori on Monday 21 March. Tickets, for subscribers only, are on sale now. To subscribe from £1 a week, click here.