🔥 Gove was one of the big political hitters of the Leave campaign, whose unexpected betrayal of Prime Minister David Cameron gave the Brexiters an important initial boost. Gove’s Brexit journey started publicly in February 2016, when he wrote that he had been “wrestling with the most difficult decision of my political life” but had decided, on balance, that “the country would be freer, fairer and better off outside the EU”.
It is more than possible, however, that his mind was made up before this. Gove had previously employed Dominic Cummings as his special adviser – indeed, Cummings has been “credited” for his “schooling revolution”. Described by David Cameron as “a career psychopath”, Cummings would go on to play a central role in the Vote Leave campaign.
Gove’s “schooling revolution” involved £400 million of cuts to funding for existing state schools in order to help pay for a flagship programme of “free schools” (like the one started by Gove’s friend Toby Young). One of Gove’s senior government colleagues at the time described the policy as “nothing short of lunacy” being pushed by an “ideologically obsessed zealot”.
An enthusiastic regulation burner, Gove was part of the government’s so-called Red Tape Initiative, which aims to “grasp the opportunities that Brexit will give us to cut red tape in sensible ways”. In May 2017 it singled out EU Construction Products Regulation (EU 305/2011) as “red tape folly” which is “expensive and burdensome”. The following month, improper use of flammable cladding was a key factor in the deaths of 71 people in the fire at Grenfell Tower, demonstrating the vital importance of strong regulation of construction products and standards.
Since the Brexit referendum, Gove has continued to try to justify the infamous “£350m to the NHS” side-of-a-bus slogan (credited to Cummings) and to rail against experts. “The money is there and it’s for the Government to decide how to spend it once we leave,” he has insisted. Both the UK Statistics Authority and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have pointed out that this is not the case, and even Chancellor Phillip Hammond has accused Gove of “misleading” the public by repeatedly using this figure during the referendum campaign.
Along with Boris Johnson, Gove has also been urging his Cabinet colleagues to seize the opportunity to scrap the Working Time Directive, one of the many EU regulations that protects workers against exploitation by bosses.
As Environment Minister, Gove has been heralding a so-called “Green Brexit”. Sceptics may wonder how long it is before this turns out to be, in the words of his former friend Cameron, so much “green crap“.
Meanwhile, Gove and his Brexit co-conspirator Boris Johnson continue to play leading roles in the ongoing Conservative Party soap opera. They are now, apparently, best buddies again despite Gove having stabbed Johnson “in the front” in a leadership bid that one of his Tory colleagues described as “a spasm of immaturity”.
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