When Michael Gove was welcomed back into government this year and appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, some wondered if Boris Johnson was really wise to trust his old nemesis with the serious business of government. After all, Gove both ran against the PM in the recent leadership contest and, infamously, stabbed him in the back after the Brexit vote in 2016.
But if Boris is looking for inspiration about how to handle his colleague, it appears that there are other prime ministers who might be able to help. David Cameron for one apparently distrusted Gove so much he developed his own protocol for managing his Chief Whip.
In a review of David Cameron’s memoir, For the Record, in this week’s Spectator, Jo Johnson reveals that Gove was considered to be the ‘biggest leaker in government’ and was completely ‘distrusted’ when Cameron was in charge of the country. According to Jo, who was director of Number 10’s policy unit at the time, Gove was so prone to leaking to the press that when he was sacked as education secretary and made Chief Whip, a ‘Gove protocol’ was even drawn up in Downing Street to prevent him from receiving any policy information:
‘Michael Gove gets off lightly [in the book]. We watch him go from the ‘close friend’ Cameron brought into politics to someone whose motives he increasingly called into question. There is a telling moment early on when Gove pleads with DC not to run for leader. ‘I think he had nothing but the best intentions in making the call,’ Cameron says. Hmm.
The biggest leaker in government, Gove was so distrusted in the building that when he was sacked as education secretary and appointed chief whip, Downing Street secretly introduced the ‘Gove Protocol’ to limit his involvement in policy making.’
Mr S wonders if perhaps Boris may need to resurrect the Protocol himself, now that Gove is back inside the Number 10 machine…