Michael gove

Sex and the Famous Five

Generations of readers of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series have enjoyed the books without having to contemplate the erotic properties of the canine member of the quintet. After reading Nicholas Royle’s one-of-a-kind fantasia on Blyton and David Bowie, they may never be able to do so again. Royle writes confidently that ‘the most obvious route to thinking about sex in the Famous Five books is Timmy the dog’. Once this bombshell has been absorbed, he knocks the reader down again by writing: ‘Timmy is a big dog. He is a big-tongued dog. He must have had a huge donger too.’ The idea behind David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the Sun

How has the Conservative party’s ‘Dr No’ escaped everyone’s notice for so long?

The reason conspiracy theories are so resilient, reproducing themselves from one generation to another, is that they are unfalsifiable. Evidence against them, however solid, has obviously been faked. Anyone who tries to demonstrate that Americans did land on the moon or that J.F. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald is obviously in the pay of people who stand to benefit. If you ask who those people are, since there seems to be no evidence of their existence, the answer is always the same: they are very good at concealing themselves. And so the theory finds credulous punters. To save time, I should probably point out that The Spectator, which

The BBC and a 21st-century media madness

The story of the famous BBC television presenter who, at the time of writing, has still not been named, has all the elements of 21st-century-media madness – something allegedly sexual which may or not involve a person too young for such things; a desperate hue and cry to see who will dare to name the accused first; anonymous accusers; a clash between strong legal rules about the accused’s anonymity and the strong social media custom of ignoring them; a confusion as to whether the ‘victim’ is a victim or whether he/she even believes he/she is a victim; gabby lawyers; the Sun; an angry mum; a stepfather; ‘fresh allegations’; a ‘concerned’ government

Why developers deserve to pay for the cladding crisis

In recent months, Michael Gove has been upsetting not only the house-building industry but its defenders, too. The Levelling-up Secretary has been accused of ‘blackmail’ by online newspaper Cap X, which compared his actions to ‘Putin’s Russia or Erdogan’s Turkey’. The Telegraph mocked him up on a wrecking ball Miley Cyrus-style, and several trade press articles have accused him of ‘declaring war’ on the industry. The reason? Gove has ordered housing developers to pay for ‘life safety’ remediation measures on blocks they built, which have been found to have serious fire safety defects in the aftermath of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire – regardless of whether they were to blame

The trouble with Nick Robinson’s Thoughts for the Day

Thought for the Day appears every morning on BBC Radio 4. This preachy slot is hallowed by longevity, if not because of its content. But when Nick Robinson presents the accompanying Today programme, he often uses the moment after the hourly news and papers to contribute a political Thought for the Day of his own. Before he settles down to attack a government minister with his dentist’s drill, Nick likes to deliver his own wisdom about the foolishness of political leaders. ‘Making promises is easy,’ he told listeners on Tuesday. ‘Explaining how you’ll pay for them is rather harder, as the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are beginning to discover.’

What does Michael Gove want?

Tory conference has long been more stage-managed than other party meetings, but this year the official speeches from ministers have also been condensed into a very strange late afternoon slot lasting just two hours. The rest of the time is free for fringe meetings and plotting. Ministers and their aides have been told they have to keep their addresses to the hall announcement-lite, which makes those two hours feel largely pointless. Kwasi Kwarteng didn’t announce very much at all, even though his two U-turns have dominated the day’s agenda. This morning, the Chancellor dropped the plan to abolish the 45p rate of tax, and this evening it has emerged that

Gove says Truss’s plans are a ‘holiday from reality’

Is the Tory leadership race already over? That’s the narrative among Conservative MPs with two weeks of the leadership contest to go. The Sunak camp dispute this version of events – and tonight they have an endorsement which works in their favour. After several Tory MPs switched their allegiance from Rishi Sunak to Liz Truss, this evening Michael Gove has endorsed the former Chancellor. Writing for the Times, the former Minister for the Cabinet Office has argued Truss’s plans for immediate tax cuts are a ‘holiday from reality’ that would put ‘the stock options of FTSE 100 executives’ before the poorest. He says that Sunak is best placed to prioritise

Gove backs Kemi Badenoch for prime minister

Michael Gove has endorsed Kemi Badenoch for Tory leader. Badenoch, who was one of his junior ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, is described by Gove as ‘Keir Starmer’s worst nightmare’ and she has a ‘focus intellect and no-bulls**t drive’. Gove’s support is a coup for Badenoch. It is not every day that someone throws their weight behind someone who was their junior minister until a few days ago. Gove makes a typically eloquent case. But the jump for Badenoch from being a minister of state to being prime minister would be immense. The challenge for her is persuading 120 MPs – the final-two threshold – that she can make that

How not to level up parliament

Justified relief that soldiers are now coming out of the Azovstal steelworks alive is accompanied by anxiety about what might happen next. The day before the news broke, I was talking on WhatsApp to Daniel Detcom, a Ukrainian territorial reservist (in normal life, a disc jockey), currently on active service in Mykolaiv. He told me that the Azovstal issue was producing disagreement among Ukrainians. Those fighting in the steel plant were mostly more nationalist than President Zelensky. Some people suspected him of not striving hard enough to help them, because they might be better for him as ‘dead heroes’ than as active participants in a future Ukraine. It may be

All talk and no trousers: is Oxford really to blame for Brexit?

Attacks on British elitism usually talk about Oxbridge, but Simon Kuper argues that it is specifically Oxford that is the problem, which has provided 11 (out of 15) prime ministers since the war. So what’s the explanation? Kuper thinks it’s all the fault of the Oxford Union, which fosters chaps who are clever at debating without particularly caring which side they are on. As a result, they acquire enough rhetorical skills to enable them to beat opponents who rely on thoughtful, fact-based arguments. Such arguments are ‘boring’, and being boring in the Oxford Union is the worst crime you can commit. This wouldn’t matter if it were confined to undergraduates

Why I’m now safe from Meghan Markle

As you may have heard (if you haven’t, I’m losing my narcissistically self-promotional touch) my new TV show Piers Morgan Uncensored launches soon and will air daily in the UK, America and Australia, thus fulfilling my long-held ambition to become a global irritant. The title provokes mirth among those who feel I’ve never shown any sign of being censored. But my enforced removal from Good Morning Britain last year for refusing to apologise for an honest opinion that Meghan Markle is to veracity what Vladimir Putin is to humanity was cowardly corporate censorship, and I’m confident that if Princess Pinocchio writes to my new boss Rupert Murdoch demanding my head

Gove is clearing up Patel’s mess

Michael Gove has a reputation as a minister for clearing up colleagues’ messes – often the secretary of state he has replaced in a department – in a polite but very conspicuous fashion. Today it was Home Secretary Priti Patel’s turn to see what it was like to get a visit from Gove and his dustpan and brush. As Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, Gove is responsible for one of the routes by which Ukrainian refugees can come to Britain, and he announced the details of the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme in the Commons this afternoon. This has largely been passed to him because the Home Office is in such

Will Gove host a refugee?

Whoops! Cripes! The government is in another mess. The cry goes out: send for Gove. Like the elegant Jeeves to Boris’s Bertie Wooster, he answers his master’s desperate call, ready to extricate him from another self-inflicted mess. Now the PM’s latest troubles are not aunts but Ukrainians and the many thousands now fleeing their country.  The Home Office are predictably ineffective so it’s once more unto the breach for the oleaginous Aberdonian, the man with more jobs than George Osborne. Levelling up, saving the Union, intergovernmental relations and now processing refugees: is there anything the Gover can’t do? In his interview this morning with Sophy Ridge, the over-worked minister explained how he intends to

I’ve found a little Eden in London

I’m not one of life’s early risers but an exception had to be made on Wednesday last week. In an event organised by Lord Chadlington (Peter Selwyn Gummer), Michael Gove was talking about ‘levelling up’ to an invited audience at the Corinthia hotel in London. This was a breakfast meeting, doors open at 7.45, and I wanted to hear Mr Gove, a politician I know and admire. So I was there. Gove was impressive. But in the end neither he nor the breakfast were what I’ll always remember about that morning. Around nine o’clock we tipped out on to the pavements by Embankment Tube station. It was a glorious morning,

Boris Johnson is drifting

Tory MPs only have one topic of conversation: the fate of Boris Johnson. They huddle together in offices in Portcullis House, comparing notes, assessing the Prime Minister’s survival prospects. At the time of writing, there is a sense in Westminster that attempts to oust Johnson have been delayed; that the danger for him will flare up again after the police end their investigation into Downing Street parties or after the local elections in May. But Johnson is not being helped by the fact that many of the hints of favour or policy change he has dropped to MPs as he has tried to shore up his position have not come

The jury’s still out for Boris Johnson among MPs

When Michael Gove addressed Tory MPs on Wednesday evening at a meeting of the 1922 committee, he began with a tribute to Boris Johnson. After a rocky few days for the Prime Minister in which he has apologised to the House for attending a drinks party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown and faced calls from his own side to resign, Gove took the opportunity to remind MPs of Johnson’s selling points. The levelling up secretary told MPs that their leader ‘gets the big calls right’ citing Brexit, vaccines and Johnson’s recent decision not to bring in extra Covid restrictions over Christmas. Given that Gove was one of the ministers calling for

W1A: Michael Gove gets trapped in a lift

It seems the government reset isn’t going exactly to plan. Michael Gove, Boris Johnson’s trouble-shooter, was due to appear on Radio 4’s Today programme in the coveted 8:10 a.m slot this morning to explain how he has finally solved the long-running cladding crisis as part of his housing brief.  But what should have been a moment of triumph turned into an episode of farce. For, in scenes straight out of W1A, the Minister for Levelling Up appears to be unable to, er, go up a level, as he spent more than half an hour trapped in one of the Corporation’s lifts. An embarrassed BBC presenter Nick Robinson was forced to explain the unfolding drama live on

‘Politics exacts a very high price’: an interview with Michael Gove

What is Boris Johnson’s government for? The answer, we’re often told, is ‘levelling up’. So far this has been a slogan without much meaning. More than two years on from Johnson’s election victory, it has been left to Michael Gove, as the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to define the concept. He intended to set out his plans before Christmas, but Covid stopped that. It nearly stopped this interview, too. Under the government’s rules at the time, Gove is in self-isolation because he met Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s deputy prime minister, who then tested positive for Covid, possibly the Omicron variant. It means we have to

Gove gets into gear

‘This government ends if the red wall reverts back to type and we lose 45 seats then end up in hung parliament territory,’ warns one secretary of state. This comment is a reminder of how vital it is for Boris that levelling up is seen to be a success. The rewards of getting it right are considerable. The Tories’ reward for that would probably be another decade in power: one cabinet loyalist says, ‘The boss wants to see a world where Labour are shut out. We consolidate the red wall.’  Michael Gove and Andy Haldane have found inspiration in 15th-century Florence But fixing regional disparities isn’t easy: it is hard to find

Watch: highlights of Boris Johnson’s conference speech

So that’s it. The end. Tory conference wraps up today with Boris Johnson delivering a policy-light leader’s speech to close the four day Conservative jamboree in Manchester. Surrounded by campaign placards like a traditional electoral rally, Johnson made an hour long speech peppered with talk of ‘building back better.’ And in traditional Boris style, there were, of course, jokes – ones which fortunately landed better than some of the more laboured ones he’s been making at evening receptions. Below are five of the PM’s best moments from his address to the Tory faithful.