The unstated but all too obvious divergence of views between the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and Main On Sunday editor Geordie Greig has seen the Sunday title, and the Daily Mail, taking contradictory stances on which way to vote, who is built up or demonised, and even how stories are presented. The confusion of Mail readers will be understandable. But today’s assault on Michael “Oiky” Gove is unprecedented.
Gove’s wife Sarah Vine is a Daily Mail columnist. The Daily Mail had been supportive of his tenure as Education Secretary; there would be no bad news about him in its pages. So many readers will be aghast to see two stories run by the MoS tearing into him - and Ms Vine. The first, concerning their 11-year-old son, is a copy of a piece run by the Sunday Mirror. The second, about an alleged affair, is just bizarre.
What is routine is the claim “Michael Gove's 11-year-old son is said to have been found wandering the corridors of a bed and breakfast after the axed minister reportedly left him alone for six hours to party with celebrities … The former secretary of state and his wife Sarah Vine reportedly handed responsibility for their boy over to hotel workers and said they would be back from the glitzy party by 9.30pm”. They returned four hours later.
Mail Online gets suitably judgmental about this, tut-tutting “The Government's own guidelines state under-12s should not be left to fend for themselves for a long period of time due to them 'rarely being mature enough’ … Although the law does not specify an age children can be left on their own, parents can be prosecuted”.
But then comes the bizarre item, under the by-line of MoS political editor Simon Walters, telling “Leading Brexit campaigner Michael Gove is today revealed as the man falsely smeared by Theresa May’s Cabinet ‘enforcer’ as having had a gay affair … The Mail on Sunday has been informed that Williamson said in Downing Street that Gove had had a homosexual relationship with personal and political ally Dominic Cummings, chief strategist of the Leave campaign in the EU referendum”.
Er, and what does this have to do with his political career and public standing? Especially as the MoS follows that by saying “Both Gove and Cummings are happily married with children and this newspaper understands the allegation to be totally baseless”. The claim is attributed to Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson, but he has declined to play the MoS’ game, and has flatly denied another allegation concerning a comment about Theresa May.
Especially as the paper then adds “The Mail on Sunday first reported Williamson’s alleged gay smear last week, without identifying Gove and Cummings … Williamson’s alleged smear of Gove and Cummings was made when he was Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary”. It still doesn’t explain why the MoS is peddling a story it admits is not true.
But it does damage Sarah Vine, by association, as does the story about their son being left in a hotel while she and Gove went partying. Thus another episode in the increasingly bitter and bizarre power struggle between Dacre and Greig. And we now know that if the latter succeeds the former at the Daily Mail, Ms Vine may not be there for long.