During times of difficulty for party leaders, there are inevitably those who position themselves as potential successors, and here, access to the print media can prove useful. But it can also cruelly expose the plotter’s lack of credibility, and equally the presence of social media enables some of the most egregious dishonesty to be called out and those leadership claims debunked.has now gone on the record, using the annual Keith Joseph memorial lecture, hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies, to position himself as some kind of successor to the man who was nicknamed “The Mad Monk” and “Sir Sheath Joseph”, and who bodyswerved the chance to lead the Tories.
As the deeply subversive Guardian pointed out, Joseph’s leadership chances were badly dented when he made one of those remarks that Tories have been so prone to over the years – in his case telling in a pre-prepared speech that “our human stock is threatened” by single mothers on low incomes. This less than august tradition was continued recently by Howard Flight, with his remarks on “breeding”.
But Gove’s USP is that he is compassionate. He talked of “the spirit of Sir Keith's great work – consciously in the tradition of compassionate conservatism he incarnated ... That is why I believe the best memorial we can erect to him is a society in which opportunity is more equal, the needs of the most vulnerable are our first priority and the greatest fulfilment any of us can have is in service to others”.
While “Oiky” considers his new and formidable erection, though, it is rather more obvious to those who have observed the behaviour of the Department for Education (DfE) recently that any idea of his being “compassionate” is weapons grade bullshit. Anyone who lets Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete loose to terrorise his staff has, by definition, approximately zero compassion.
The behaviour of Gove’s retinue of polecats has been well documented on Zelo Street, from February’s initial coverage (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), to their online meltdown in late March, their subsequent silence, and the informal co-opting of the loathsome Toby Young more recently (Tobes has been on grammar pedantry duty yet again – see HERE – to no discernible effect).
Moreover, anyone seeking to lead his party is not going to improve their chances by trotting out a litany of slanted and occasionally downright untrue stories, underpinned with an inability to be open and transparent about his department and the way it disburses taxpayers’ money. And on top of all that, he remains far too close to the Murdoch empire for his party to be comfortable with him as leader.
The Tories could be desperate enough to choose Gove, but that’s their problem.