Last night in Parliament, Environment Secretary Michael Gove made a barnstormer of a speech.
(Don’t worry, Gove-haters. I’ll make my critical point in a minute…)
Michael Gove’s closing speech was one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen at the despatch box. https://t.co/4BGl5pkBkz
— Jake Johnstone (@hijakejohnstone) January 17, 2019
Gove has been through the wars but this is a persuasive claim.
Scottish politicians essentially go to the Edinburgh parliament to die. Westminster still gives the brightest of them a chance to shine. https://t.co/VBf87o0ltN
— Tom Gallagher (@cultfree54) January 17, 2019
Whatever you think of Gove — and I know a lot of you here present don’t think very much of him — it was a fine piece of impassioned rhetoric from a master debater, worthy of commemoration. You can read the full transcript here.
The climatic ending was particularly fine, when Gove poured invective on Jeremy Corbyn and his glaring unsuitability ever to be Britain’s Prime Minister. Obviously, Gove is far from the first Conservative MP to make this point. But I thought he put it particularly well, especially when he laid in to the Labour party’s anti-Semitism — something it has been getting away with for far too long. Gove’s trick was to make his attack in a slightly oblique, unusual way:
Why is it that a Labour Member of Parliament needs armed protection at her own party conference? Why is it that nearly half of female Labour MPs wrote to the Leader of the Opposition to say that he was not standing up against the vilification and the abuse that they received online, carried out in his name? If he cannot protect his own Members of Parliament, if he cannot protect the proud traditions of the Labour Party, then how could he possibly protect this country?
As a friend of Gove’s I’m always happy to see his star in the ascendant, even if I disagree with many if not most of his political positions. I still think he’s a very strong candidate to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister and that this speech will have done him no harm at all.
Also, I absolutely deplore the tendency that so many people have in this age of partisan grudgery never to give credit to anyone they consider to be on the “wrong” side of the argument. This is stupid.
If Jeremy Corbyn were to make a speech denouncing the wind industry for its dishonesty, greed, and epic destruction of avian wildlife, I would applaud him despite the fact that he is a terrorist-loving communist.
If Green MP Caroline Lucas were to make a speech demanding a No Deal Brexit as the only way of honouring the decision made in the 2016 EU Referendum, I’d big her up too whatever my reservations about her grotesque Watermelon politics.
The same should apply to Michael “Tyrion Lannister” Gove. Those of you not big enough to accept that this was a great speech just because you feel he has betrayed you on Brexit are being petty and ungenerous.
All that said — and at the risk of completely contradicting myself — the fuss being made about Gove’s speech by the Tory faithful is emblematic of everything that is wrong with the Conservative party.
For several years now, their best argument for voting Conservative has been: if you don’t vote for us, you’ll get Jeremy Corbyn.
Not only has it been their best argument — it has also been their only argument.
On free speech, on Brexit, on the environment, on taxation, on foreign aid, on military spending, on Islam, on rubbish like the gender pay gap, on transgenderism, the Conservative party has been so busily pandering to the liberal-left that it’s hard for any Conservative voter to find any policy worth voting for.
Sure we can all agree that Jeremy Corbyn is a jolly bad thing and that if he ever took over the country we’d be Venezuela Mk II.
But that “look! Jeremy Corbyn!!” tactic isn’t going to leave any of us fooled.
The Conservatives may be our best bulwark against a Corbyn tyranny.
They are also, however, the party that has failed us on Brexit.
It’ll take more than Govian oratory, I suspect, to distract us from the last very awkward detail.
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