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The Govefather

06 July 2016 | Ross Jones

Lenin once said: “There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

The past few weeks in British politics have felt something a little like that.

We left the European Union. David Cameron stepped down. Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet fled faster than the rats on the Titanic. Boris Johnson, career in tatters, is trying to piece together where it all went so wrong. George Osborne is doing his best Lord Lucan impression. And the economic experts are warning of another recession as the pound falls and Brexit wreaks havoc with our position in the global markets. And Nigel Farage quit . . . which, given the state of everything, doesn’t feel as big a win as it should.

So, in the wake of Brexit, what’ve been left with?

Well, to put it bluntly, we have a constitutional crisis. There’s a vacuum where there should be central government. Cameron is a ghost of a prime minister, haunting Downing Street for a few more short months before he’s exorcised. The Labour Party is in open revolt, as Corbyn clings to his increasingly untenable position with the fascist zeal of a third-world tyrant. Nicola Sturgeon has rallied, with the SNP pushing for a second referendum on Scottish independence in as many years. And then there’s the possible destabilisation of the fragile peace between the Republic of Ireland and the North.

To quote Heath Ledger’s Joker: “When the chips are down, these civilised people, they’ll eat each other!”

But for some, a political landscape that looks worse than the topographical map of Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb is…opportunity.

Enter Michael Gove.

The adopted son of an Aberdeen fisherman, an actual working-class Tory (I know, you were beginning to think they didn’t exist) with a comprehensive school education, has buried the careers of three of Oxford’s former Bullingdon Club boys. And enhanced his own prospects.

What a curious creature Gove is. The former Education Secretary has said time and again that he doesn’t want to be prime minister. That he doesn’t have the necessary qualities, the charisma, leadership skills etc. That he has so little design on the top job that he would sign such a statement in his own blood.

In the space of a fortnight, Gove has gone from mild-mannered Tory frontbencher to political psychopath. He’s like some sort of Frank Underwood/Patrick Bateman amalgam disguised in Rick Moranis' looks (the ‘80s actor of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids fame – compare them, its uncanny!). No wonder nobody saw it coming. Not David. Or Boris. Or George. Rick Moranis is only ever the good guy, he never turns out to be the villain!

His Machiavellian manoeuvrings have been exceptional. Brutal. Ruthless. The still-warm bodies of Cameron, Boris, George Osborne and the EU are piling up in his rear view. And yet he just mozzies on.

In the days after, with press picking apart the savageness of his actions, Gove went to work on trying to change the public’s perception of him.

He appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to explain himself, desperately trying to convince in much the same way Ted Bundy did when he sat down with that American journalist and tried to make out how he wasn’t such a bad guy – if you could just get past all the rape and murdering.

The problem for Gove is, it’s difficult now to separate him from what he’s done. There’s something about him that pricks at the synapses – the feeling that you really just can’t trust him. And all the PR and political spin in the world is not going to make that go away.

Yesterday, the hits were still coming. An off-record conversation between Ken Clarke and Michael Rifkind was recorded yesterday at Sky News studios, of Gove Clarke said: “I think with Michael as prime minister we’d go to war with at least three countries at once.”

It’s a scary thought, Gove taking his talents for scheming and brutality to the global political stage. A world in which Donald Trump, Michael Gove and Vladimir Putin run powerful nations is a sobering thought.

How everything plays out from here, nobody knows. But you can be sure it’s going to get a damn sight worse before it gets better.