Friday, 23 November 2018

Gove, a cabinet Hamlet snared by his Scottish past

From my Daily Record column today
A FELLOW journalist is researching a biography of Michael Gove, the Hamlet of the House ("to be or not to be") or parliament's Poundshop Macbeth ("stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires"), depending on your point of view.
I met the writer on a Commons staircase as Gove was at the despatch box in the chamber for the Fisheries Bill debate.
Rush to the reporters gallery, I urged him, where his opening chapter was being written in front of our eyes. There was Gove, the arch-Brexiteer, on the stump defending Theresa May's Brexit deal - which he does not believe in - to the hilt.
By doing so he invoked the memory of his family's experience of Britain joining the Common Fisheries Policy in the 70s, vowing there would be no "last-minute sell-out" of fishing interests this time.
Gove, the adopted son of an Aberdeen fish merchant, told MPs: "I was a boy then but the consequences had a profound impact on my family and on my father's business. There is no way I can ever forget what happened then."
There was laid bare the personal forces which left this brazen Brexiteer trapped in May's Cabinet as her political life hung by a thread.
This sensitive awareness of the totemic value of fishing, the consequences for Scottish Tories and May's "our precious union" left Gove hamstrung.
Instinctively, intellectually, he wanted to walk out.
But doing so would put him in the camp of recently resigned former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab in declaring the deal a threat to the Union, and walking into the SNP narrative.
Quitting as Environment Secretary would also condemn the Brexit fishing deal as a sell-out, a death sentence for Scottish Tory MPs.
So there is Michael Gove, a complex character, his destiny, his vision shaped and snared by his Scottish past.
Would you pass me that quill, Mr Shakespeare?

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