The Mad Hatter of Westminster

The Mad Hatter of Westminster

I first met Michael Gove when I was 17 years old and participating in the final of a regional schools debating competition. At that time he was Home Affairs Editor of The Times and was acting as one of the judges in the final round of the competition. I met him again at a reception a year later in Inner Temple, one of the old inns of law in London, at a reception with the late Baroness Thatcher whom I was asked to present a gift to. A few years later as I was graduating from Cambridge University I became professionally involved with him while helping to set up a think tank euphemistically called The Henry Jackson Society. Gove became a Trustee of the The Henry Jackson Society just after he was elected a Tory MP in the General Election of 2005 Sadly, due to internal management and leadership problems The Henry Jackson Society degenerated into something which it was never intended to be. My own personal account of the degeneration of The Henry Jackson Society is still to be written but my former colleague Marko Hoare has already written an excellent expose from his own viewpoint of what went badly wrong with theHJS and it is well worth a read. Since then, and with the reality of what the Iraq War has created, I have renounced my original support for the war (I was to be fair to myself a naive 19 year old at the time) and severed my links with the HJS, repudiating it and what it stands for. As John Maynard Keynes once said: «the facts change, my opinions change». Yet, Michael Gove (17 years my senior and vastly more professionally experienced than myself), to the best of my knowledge, has not renounced his ardent intellectual and journalistic support for the invasion of Iraq or even expressed regret at the aftermath. This unflinching, undiluted support for the Iraq War and its aftermath combined with his ideological hatred of the European Union and doctrinaire championing of a British exit from the EU at all costs, I think, qualifies him for the title of the Mad Hatter of the Westminster village. Gove is indeed probably one of the most hare-brained, bonkers and deranged MPs to sit in the House of Commons. 

Boris Johnson's sister, Rachel, labelled him a «political psychopath». I suppose having grown up with one for a brother, Ms Johnson knows one when she sees one. Mr. Gove, like Mr. Johnson, is divorced from reality. He likes to think of himself as a intellectual snob. Yet, he only achieved a 2.1 in his undergraduate studies, not in the premier intellectual league of a First class degree, and is only educated to BA level having undertaken no post-graduate study and research. Being so absorbed in his own little pseudo-intellectual world, he evidently cannot see the intellectual word for the trees. No more clearly can this be seen than in his steadfast support to this day for the Iraq War. Tariq Ali once recalled how, at the time of the Iraq War, he «debated the ghastly Gove on television [... and found him] worse than most Bush apologists in the United States». That takes quite some doing. Back in 2002 and 2003 from his column in the Murdoch owned Times. Gove helped beat the journalistic drumbeat to war in Iraq. As the loathsome Editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre put it in evidence to The LevesonInquiry: «I’m not sure that the Blair government – or Tony Blair - would have been able to take the British people to war if it hadn’t been for the implacable support provided by the Murdoch papers. There’s no doubt that came from Mr Murdoch himself». 

Gove wrote in an article for The Times in December 2002 while he was Assistant Editor that the invasion of Iraq would «deliver millions from misery». Those who warned against the dangers of invading Iraq were labelled by Gove as «Saddam's useful idiots». Even as far on as 2008 when it had become clear to most sensible and rational people that the invasion of Iraq had proved to be a catastrophe on epic proportions Michael Gove was adamant that the «liberation» of Iraq represented:«that rarest of things - a proper British foreign policy success». One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. And so it was with Mr. Goveapropos Iraq stating in 2008 that: «Alone in the Arab Middle East, it is now a fully functioning democracy with a free press, properly contested elections and an independent judiciary». And just to leave no hostages to fortune Gove threw in for good measure that: «Sunni and Shia contend for power in parliament, not in street battles». Even in 2013 Gove was professing how he was a «big fan» of Tony Blair. 

Strangely Michael Gove has gone rather silent on the topic of the invasion of Iraq and it's aftermath. Instead he has poured his political energy into leading the charge for another high-risk adventure, taking Britain out of the EU. Perplexing the man who professed during the EU referendum campaign that the British people had had enough of experts, never had his own political and intellectual judgement rigorously examined with regards to his greatest cheer-leading role before Brexit - that of the Iraq War. But just as Iraq is a liberated paradise of democracy and Sunni and Shia harmony in the fevered mind of Michael Gove, so to is it unnecessary for Britain to remain in the Single Market or even have an extended transitional phase upon it's departure as has been mooted by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney. After demonstrating during the summer Tory leadership contest that Gove has loyalty only to himself and the ease he displayed in the (but ultimately cack-handed) political knifing of his fellow Brexiteer Johnson, the new Prime Minister Theresa May sacked Gove from the Cabinet and exiled him to the backbenches with the atonement: « I have been talking to colleagues and the importance of loyalty is something on people’s minds.... it would perhaps help if you could demonstrate that loyalty from the back benches». Ouch! Gove has now taken full advantage of his return to the backbenches to demonstrate his loyalty, yet not just from the backbenches of the House of Commons, but with a brand new column in his old employer of the Murdoch Times, which he is getting 150,000 pounds for.

Curiously one of the more overt corrupt quirks of the British House of Commons (which no one in the British media or public ever really campaign against) is that, outrageously, MPs can hold multiple outside jobs while still being an MP as long as they are not serving in Government. This means that many electors are left with part-time MPs who do not represent fully and solely the interests of their constituents but represent multiple outside commercial, business, journalistic, industrial and lobby interests which they derive a handsome income from in addition to their tax-payer funded MPs salary and expenses. It also means that the very people who are voting on the laws of the land and shaping and passing legislation are beholden to external financial interests and multiple conflicts of interests. All the MP has to do is «register» the outside interest and the financial remuneration involved. This type of activity is banned in the US Congress. Congressmen and Senators cannot hold outside, financially remunerated jobs as well as serving as elected representatives of the people and voting on the laws of the land. 

There is no such ban in the British House of Commons. So, you have MPs who sit in Parliament and sit on Parliamentary committees - proposing legislation, scrutinizing and amending legislation and voting on legislation - who could also be working as a Director or Consultant for an investment bank - in effect a paid lobbyist who can influence and vote on financial regulation laws. And the British complain about the EU Parliament! It is not just Mr. Gove who has taken advantage of his return to the backbenches while still serving as an MP to get his snout firmly in the trough. The former Chancellor, who still serves as MP for Tatton, George Osborne, is also doing it as well. There was quite a to do about Hillary Clinton making paid speeches to financial groups before she ran for President. But the fact was Mrs. Clinton was out of politics at the time and was not holding any public office. She was a private citizen. Yet, since his return to the backbenches of the House of Commons in the summer time, Mr Osborne, still MP for Tatton has made well over 300,000 in paid speeches to big investment banks. Perhaps before the British public and the rest of the EU are subjected to any more hyperbolic, bonkers rantings from Michael Gove about how horrible and corrupt the European Union is he would kindly stop writing his 150,000 pound Murdoch paid column in The Times, focus on doing his job as an MP and making that his only job, and renounce his previous positions regarding the Iraq War, admit he was wrong and apologize to the millions of people who have since lost their lives, homes and loved ones.

Tags: UK  Jackson  Johnson