Despite the decline of the Westminster and Fleet Street drinking culture over the years, and indeed the rise in the number of politicians, pundits and hacks who do not participate in that kind of activity, to be exposed as someone who cannot hold one’s drink is still the most wounding of charges. This has been exploited ruthlessly in a revenge attack by those close to defeated Tory leadership candidate Boris Johnson.
Yes, you, you've had enough - you're barred!
Bozza was stabbed in the back by Michael “Oiky” Gove, precipitating not only his exit from the race to succeed Young Dave, but the start of a campaign of carefully calibrated retribution which had one objective, and that was to undermine Gove’s credibility (or perhaps one should say “undermine it even further than was already done by his very presence”) in order to take him out of the reckoning.
So while Bozza claimed to be backing Andrea Leadsom for the leadership for a variety of wholly altruistic reasons, even though her policy positions are rather different from his, his team have set to work putting the boot into “Oiky’s” reputation. This has culminated in a Telegraph article “Michael Gove has 'an emotional need to gossip, particularly when drink is taken' - why he can't be trusted with Britain's most sensitive secrets”.
Just in case Telegraph readers - many of whom will be party members - didn’t get the drift of that headline, it is followed by the helpful explainer “Boris Johnson's former campaign manager Ben Wallace writes that Michael Gove is unfit to be Prime Minister because he is a gossip”. Wallace tells “Just like the operational tours I used to deploy on in the Army, you learn a lot during the contest. You learn who to trust, you learn who is honourable and you learn who are you friends are”. There was more.
“From the minute Michael Gove came on board with Boris’s leadership campaign, things started to go wrong. There was a leak a day in the press, starting with the camera crews at Boris’s house in Oxfordshire on the first day and ending with the infamous email from Sarah Vine, Michael’s wife, ‘accidentally’ finding its way to the papers”. And more again.
“For me this wasn’t new. When I was a government whip and Michael was the chief whip, the office leaked like a sieve. Important policy and personnel details made their way to the papers. Michael seems to have an emotional need to gossip, particularly when drink is taken, as it all too often seemed to be”. Plus Wallace reminded readers about Dominic Cummings, “who has the same effect on MPs as arsenic”.
Gove is widely believed to have been behind the Sun’s infamous “Queen Backs Brexit” headline, so the idea of him as a gossip is easy to plant in Tory Party members’ minds. And it is not difficult, given his awkward demeanour, to also plant the idea that he gets squiffy after a couple of shandies. This story has been perfectly engineered to hit Gove’s credibility with the electorate he needs to win over - Tory MPs and party members.
One would expect nothing less from Lynton Crosby. Michael Gove’s candidacy is bust.