GIt is usually said of ministers that once they fall out of favor they never come back. With Michael Gove it’s the other way around: he keeps falling out of favor and always coming back. With his appointment to Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, Gove has reclaimed one of his favorite departments: the leveling-up ministry invented by Boris Johnson to equalize living conditions in the north of England.
Some believe Gove would be even happier as Education Secretary, as Cabinet Office Minister or as “Chief Whip”, that is the de facto group leader. Gove has held all of these Cabinet posts before – plus Environment Secretary, Building Secretary, Justice Secretary, Housing Secretary and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a pompous-sounding, rather vacant post for a minister without a portfolio. That’s a total of eight cabinet posts since the Conservative government began twelve years ago. No one has held more time in government office since 2012.
It is considered highly effective
Raised by adoptive parents in Scotland and studying English literature at Oxford, Gove is considered indispensable for two reasons. For one, it is considered highly effective. Even his worst opponents confirm that he has achieved something in every ministry and has even transformed some things sustainably. Gove is not only active as a disciplined and disciplining administrator, but also as an intellectual pioneer, which is considered a curious mixture even in colorful London.
At least as important, however, is that no Prime Minister wants Michael Gove as an enemy. The 55-year-old politician is known as a master schemer who, with his extensive connections and tactical sophistication, can bring anyone down. It is better to involve the man than let him roam around – that is the first rule of power for every head of government who wants to remain in office for a while. Even Johnson, who would have become prime minister in 2016 but for Gove’s intervention, preferred to have his arch-rival close at hand. Liz Truss believed she could do without him and only survived 48 days in office. Gove was not only heavily involved in her fall in the background.
Since failing to become prime minister six and a half years ago, Gove has consoled himself with the knowledge that it ultimately doesn’t matter who reigns under him as prime minister. A similar role was once played in the Labor era by Peter Mandelson, feared as the ‘Prince of Darkness’. Gove can be called the sinister shadow of all Tory bosses.