Last week, I made a silly video featuring the Conservative party’s chief whip Michael Gove. If you haven’t seen it yet then obviously you should because it’s a work of accidental genius. But I do want to stress the accidental part because there was nothing remotely calculated about it. It just so happened that Gove was in the neighbourhood and I thought it would be amusing to get him to talk about something other than politics. And I knew he was a Game of Thrones fan, so…
What I didn’t at all expect, though, was that it would go semi-viral. (We’re not talking Cat Wearing Shark Costume Cleans Kitchen On A Roomba or anything. But it did rack up around 30,000 hits in one day, which beats my previous video record by around 25,000). And the reason it did was because lots of media outlets – the Spectator; the Guardian; the Independent; the BBC Daily Politics; Huff Po; the Telegraph; Guido Fawkes – were so tickled by its silliness that they couldn’t resist putting it up.
Not, of course, that I’m remotely complaining that they did so. The only bit that puzzles me is the political subtext which some of them have imposed on it. For example, in The Spectator, the diarist ‘Steerpike’ mischievously suggested that Gove was in some way identifying himself with the “misshapen dwarf, reviled throughout his life” Tyrion Lannister.
The Telegraph took a similar line by noting that:
Mr Gove himself was recently bumped as Education Secretary during a Cabinet reshuffle amid polls revealing his unpopularity with voters and was tasked instead with party discipline.
Guido Fawkes, meanwhile, read the runes and decided that this was a sign that James Delingpole was preparing to abandon UKIP and return to the Conservative fold.
But it was the New Statesman – not normally my most natural political soulmate – which got closest to the mark when it said:
Sometimes, strange things happen. You can waste a lot of time trying to work out why and how, or you can just sit back and let the sheer oddness wash over you.
Still, the experience has given me a fascinating insight into the nature of politics and our understanding of it. Journalists – political journalists especially – I realise, are by nature conspiracy theorists: forever in search of deeper meanings, hidden plots and grand designs, even when, as in this case, none actually exists.
The infallible rule of Hollywood, they say, is that “No one knows anything.” And I’m beginning to suspect that similar rules apply to politics. Most of the time, politicians are just too busy – and often too stupid or incompetent – to engage in all the clever scheming that is so often ascribed to them. When things happen, they are at least as often the result of cock-up, or inertia, or accident or fudge as they are of deliberate intent.
Another thing I have learned from this episode is the danger of false modesty. I could have put the video up straight away on Breitbart London but I thought: “Nah. No one will care that much” – with the result that the entire opposition scooped me with my own story.
But for those who are still determined to read something into that video, here’s an interesting thought. I didn’t prep Gove with that the question; nor had we discussed Game of Thrones beforehand. I just hit him with it straight, and that fluent, detailed response he gave was pretty much instantaneous. Now I’ve long thought Gove to be a clever mind – by far the greatest intellect in the cabinet. But is it maybe possible that I’ve underestimated him?
Does he really possess a brain so quick that with barely a second’s thought he can suddenly spy an opportunity simultaneously to make himself come across like an amusing guy in touch with popular culture and slip in a sly dig about how personally feels about the way he has been treated by the public and by the Cameron administration?
If so then we should all be deeply concerned that a mind so sharp should currently be being wasted on the post of Chief Whip. He shouldn’t be “the Hand of the King”, as his friend and boss David Cameron has called him. Rather, it’s Gove himself who should be sitting on the Iron Throne.