As pictures go, it could be career death. An amazing young talent caught in a compromising position with two older men. And it’s on my computer. The talent in question is Jack Whitehall, the brilliant actor/comedian, star of Decline and Fall and Bad Education, who was appearing at the Hammersmith Apollo last week. I went with my children to see the show and, afterwards, thanks to the kindness of an old friend, we were invited backstage to hobnob with Jack. My son and daughter posed for pictures with their idol and then their place by his side was taken by two less innocent characters. Jack’s father Michael is one of the greatest film and theatrical agents of our time, as well as a mordantly witty raconteur and on-screen foil for his son. He is also bracingly reactionary on almost every political issue there is. Which is why it’s no surprise that he should be a boon companion of the old friend who swung my backstage access, James Delingpole. Together, Michael and James are to political correctness what Jacob Rees-Mogg is to grime. The picture of the two of them smiling either side of Jack is probably about as credibility-enhancing among his fan base as a shot of him sporting a Vote Leave lapel badge and a Make America Great Again baseball cap. Which is why I won’t be releasing it. But it does make a great screen-saver on my departmental laptop.
Embarrassing pictures are a speciality of mine. Having posed thumbs-up next to Donald Trump, been snapped jogging in an extra-large T-shirt which barely stretched across my stomach and caught by a paparazzo with the world’s worst holiday beard (I looked like someone had stuck glue on my face and then dunked my head in a fox den) I know what its like to regret the existence of Google Images. But one picture taken of me last week I don’t regard as embarrassing. I was snapped sharing a drink with the former Downing Street Chief of Staff Nick Timothy. And the picture of that convivial catch-up was fed into the Westminster rumour mill. It’s impossible in politics to put right every misinterpretation of every action, to correct the mischievous spin placed on every activity, to ensure every false allegation is effectively rebutted. If you did you’d have time for nothing else. And besides, the rumours are often far more fun than the reality, so the reality doesn’t stand anywhere near as much of a chance of being remembered. The reality with Nick is that he’s a highly intelligent, gifted and principled man — genuinely original and rooted. I can’t comment on the details of the general election campaign, because I wasn’t in government at the time. But I do know that Nick, like a number of other people I admire who were once in the political frontline and are now elsewhere, is a big talent. He will be a huge asset for whoever hires him in the future —just as George Osborne has been for Evgeny Lebedev.
Read Michael Gove's diary in full here.