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3rd June 2024

Valete to Michael Gove

Tim Clark

 

I was fortunate to be able to attend a hastily arranged breakfast in support of Helen Grant OBE, MP for Maidstone and Malling with Michael Gove, who agreed to be guest of honour, despite announcing a few days earlier and making news headlines that he would not be standing at the next General Election.

Although many of our readers will want to say a more formal farewell and thank-you to him at a later date, this was an historic last Ministerial breakfast on the day Parliament dissolved.

The event was held in the Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair and attended by some 25 supporters and well-wishers. Also seated around the table were four student foot soldiers in Helen’s campaign team who have already been hard at work pounding the streets of her constituency; welcomed and treated as equals, together with other business leaders, such is the example of Finito’s commitment to supporting and inspiring young people.

Michael, of course, needs no introduction here. At 56, the MP for Surrey Heath since 2005 he has held several key offices of state: Secretary of State for Education; Chief Whip; Secretary of State for Justice; Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and latterly, since 2022, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. There can be few who have been so continually in such high-profile roles and so continually in the limelight. But Michael brings so much more to the table than just being an experienced, consummate politician: he co-founded the conservative think tank Policy Exchange and has had a successful career in journalism and as a writer – his controversial Celsius 7/7 analysed the roots of radical Islamism and the West’s response to it.

To list Michael’s achievements, however, completely fails to really paint the true picture: he is a man of razor-sharp intellect but with the ability to explain and simplify complex issues; his knowledge and deep understanding of contemporary politics is phenomenally extensive; his wit is ready and genuine and his manner always engaging and polite. Over breakfast he was pressed on everything from national service to education; from the economy to defence; from taxation to foreign affairs, but not once did he faulter or miss a beat: every question received an immediate, logical, coherent and convincing response. Where appropriate his responses were light-hearted, such as when he said he had carried out market research into national service – he had asked his son and daughter! But despite the ability to be disarmingly charming and funny, his political steeliness and assertiveness are never far from the surface, for example when exposing Starmer’s former support for Corbyn (“Corbyn without a beard”) and Starmer’s comment when a barrister that, “Karl Marx was, of course, right”. Equally, however, his warmth and compassion were also evident in his support for Diane Abbott, someone with whom he profoundly disagrees on practically every issue, because for the way she has been treated by the Labour Party.

 

Finito breakfast networking event at The Beaumont Hotel, London with Michael Gove. 30.5.2024 Photographer Sam Pearce/www.square-image.co.uk

 

Michael’s departure from front line politics will be a massive loss to Parliament, to the Party and to the country as a whole. Whether or not you support his passionately held views on education, Brexit or whatever, no one can deny his remarkable ability to think radically and to argue his case in an engaging and convincing manner. Helen Grant, in her vote of thanks, admitted to not usually shedding a tear over breakfast, but saying farewell to Michael was just one such occasion. As was to be expected, he kept his cards close to his chest as to what happens next – more books, a return to journalism or, as many at the breakfast publicly hoped, a high profile role in the Lords – but there’s one thing of which we can be sure: in our host’s closing remarks he likened Michael Gove to the end titles in a Bond film and, like James Bond, Michael Gove will return.

 

Tim Clark MA, PGCE, FRSA

Author of bi-annual Better Schools: The Future of the Country

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