Some of you may have had the immense misfortune to witness Michael Gove’s, eh, let’s call it a “performance” on the BBC Breakfast news on Wednesday morning. Readers of a certain age may remember Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, way back when John Cleese was still funny. The Secretary of state for levelling up appeared to have decided that he was really the Secretary of state for Silly Talks as he adopted a variety of am dram accents and mugged and girned his way through an unhinged interview in which he denied that there was any split between Boris Johnson and the Treasury on how to tackle cost of living crisis. He went on to describe any suggestion that Boris Johnson should resign for breaking the law as – and I quote – “bonkeroony.”
And this is why, ‘he’s adopting various accents’ will henceforth be my new favourite euphemism for describing someone who is dealing with the aftermath of a monstrous coke binge – allegedly. Being tired and emotional at 7.40 am is quite an achievement, don’t let it be said that this government doesn’t go the extra mile, admittedly it seems to the casual observer to be a mile that they have gone with the assistance of Bolivian marching powder, but still. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase the party line.
It was just a short a while ago that it was reported that traces of coke were found in the toilets at Westminster and nothing more was said about it. In construction, or in any other workplace, if drugs were found on site all the staff would be getting tested.
Still, it’s heartening to know that the person in charge of levelling up the north of England can put on a cod Liverpool accent so that those northerners can understand as he tells them there’s no money and the government isn’t going to offer any monetary assistance as people are forced to choose between heating their homes or feeding their children. Delivering the news as though he’s auditioning for a part in a Harry Enfield sketch that’s based on tired stereotypes of Liverpudlians will really make them feel like he and the government care deeply for them. It was like watching a real life episode of Spitting Image, only with a more rubbery faced main character.
Clearly Gove hasn’t understood that this is a cost of living crisis. It’s not a joke, or an opportunity for him to display what an out of touch middle student debating society considers to pass for wit. Although when viewers in Scotland saw the interview, we didn’t say – “wit” – we said “Whit?!”
It was a bizarre and troubling performance, this individual is in charge of making decisions which affect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people yet he behaves in an unserious and adolescent manner as though it’s all just a bit of a laugh.
There are those who claim that Gove’s performance was a deliberate trolling to distract our attention from the Government’s woeful handling of the cost of living crisis and to get us to talk about Gove’s clowning instead. I don’t buy that, this is the same Michael Gove who was filmed in the Chamber of the House of Commons in September 2019, visibly unsteady on his feet, and propping himself up on a lectern and doing a very good impression of an extremely drunk man trying and failing to disguise just how drunk he was. This is a government which is led by a man who is widely considered, even by many in his own party, to be unfit for office. All that Gove has done is to make everyone think that he is unfit for office too. If it was just a tactic it was a self-defeating one, and would only confirm the poor judgement of those who occupy the most powerful positions in the British Government and demonstrate that they really are unfit for office.
A far more plausible explanation, given the behaviour of senior Conservatives over the past years and months, is that they genuinely just don’t care. The rules and norms that apply to ordinary mortals do not apply to them. To them it really is just a game, they do not have to suffer the consequences of the decisions that they make and dysfunctional Westminster system means that they know that they will never be held to account. Not even actual law breaking by the Prime Minister has resulted in him being forced to resign, and Gove thinks that it is “bonkeroony” that he should have to. They are not even hiding their contempt any more, but putting it on full display as though they are competing with one another to see which of them can take the piss the most before a TV interviewer will call them out for it.
So it’s just fine in Gove’s mind that he can appear in a TV interview, clearly, ahem, “unprepared”, and treat the experience as a huge joke. He knows that no one is going to take him to task for insulting the public in such a brazen manner, least of all the BBC interviewer. In any other walk of life this would be a career ending performance. If you or I had turned up for work and behaved in such a fashion, we’d be sent straight to HR and forced to take a drug test before being shown the door.
If a Scottish Government minister had behaved in a similar fashion during a TV interview, it would be newspaper headlines for weeks. It might even get the Herald to stop banging on about ferries for all of five seconds. But because it’s a senior Tory it will scarcely register. This is the UK after all, our political masters in Westminster are expected to hold us in contempt and to laugh at us, and it’s just as accepted that there is nothing that we can do about it. The Tories are laughing at us. They know we can’t vote them out. Gove thinks it’s bonkeroony that people like him should ever face consequences.
Michael Gove needs help, and as long as he remains a minister, so do we all. Gove’s bizarre performance is yet more proof that it’s bonkeroony for Scotland to remain under Westminster rule and subject to the contempt of arrogant Conservatives like Michael Gove whom we cannot hold to account.
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