31 May 2019

Why I’m backing Michael Gove


The upcoming leadership election is the most important in a generation – perhaps in generations. I am voting for Michael Gove for three reasons.

First, we need someone who will renew us in office. Second, we need a leader in Parliament who will relentlessly expose Jeremy Corbyn’s unfitness for public office and third, we need a candidate who is sensitive to the Union – our country in its current borders.

Finally, there is Brexit, which I will come to in a moment.

To the first claim, Michael is an ideas man. He has used the power of principles, expressed through policy, to shape the government departments he has led. Few ministers can claim as much.

We need a new manifesto, but more than that, we need an agenda of renewal, both domestic and global. We may need this for an immediate General Election in October, but certainly for the next two years and the General Election which will come by 2022. We need someone who will deliver this whilst in office. Michael is the man to achieve this.

Second, Michael will expose Corbyn in Parliament, week in, week out. I have yet to meet any MP who doubts this. Michael is the dominant orator of our generation. I want PMQs to become a weekly drubbing for the Labour leader, a man unfit to lead our wonderful nation.

I don’t mean that in an unpleasant way, but we face a crisis over Brexit and over our democracy. I want Corbyn to fear Wednesdays, and every day leading to Wednesdays. I want the idea of a Marxist leading Britain to be as bereft of life as the infamous ‘Norwegian Blue’ in Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch.

Is oratory critical in modern politics? It’s not as important as it was in the 19th an 20th centuries. Even recently, the brilliant William Hague made a fool of Tony Blair on a weekly basis; little good did it do us at the polls.

But now is different. We need to unite our party, inside and outside of Parliament, and we need to unite the country. This can only be achieved if we start delivering our message with confidence and skill.

Third, Gove is a Unionist. He has significant support from our Scottish colleagues. In England, we tend to underestimate this. We need to remind ourselves to be sensitive to what is happening north of the border. Winning our battle over Brexit, only to see Scotland independent, would be pyrrhic victory. Gove, raised in Scotland, is a Union man through and through.

Hanging over this is the immediate crisis of Brexit. Our last leader, despite her strengths, proved incapable of delivering Brexit. Gove is best able to deliver it – he may be the only leader who can.

Michael Gove provided the intellectual hinterland for Brexit. He has been consistent. Due to his commitment to a negotiated Brexit, he is the person best able to find common ground; with Conservative Remainers and Leavers, with the DUP, with Northern Labour, and to get a resolution.

It is critical we leave. Our future is dependent on it. October will be a dangerous month. Gove is the person most able to get us through it and to the uplands beyond.

I have carefully weighed Michael up against the other contenders (at least the ones we know about!), especially Boris whom I have found to be decent, thoroughly likeable and yes, even reliable. In addition, I know Jeremy Hunt, Esther, Dominic, James, Saj, Matt and the others all bring a wealth of positive qualities. But on balance, I am going with Michael because of the winning combination of attributes and capabilities that he offers.

Summing up, we must renew ourselves in office, we must lay bare Labour’s unfitness for power and we must keep our Union together – all this whilst delivering a meaningful Brexit. These are the tasks for our generation of political leaders – and they will be difficult to achieve. For me, Michael Gove is the political leader most likely to climb those mountains.

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Bob Seely is MP for the Isle of Wight