While sex scandals, loose talk and undeclared working holidays are ruining many who sit round the Cabinet table, one member is seeing a steady rehabilitation. Step forward Michael Gove. The recent Boris Johnson indiscretions that could result in a British national remaining jailed in Iran are making many realise what Michael Gove said all along was true – while Boris has many talents, he would be unsuitable as Prime Minister. Gove’s ‘knifing’ of Johnson last year is increasingly seen less as an act of personal ambition, and more as a necessary act of common sense.
As DEFRA Secretary, Gove has largely managed to keep both industry stakeholders and the Conservative Party faithful happy – with moves on everything from the ivory trade to the banning of allegedly bee-unfriendly pesticides. He is also reported as being diligent and hardworking (not necessarily high bars, but many other officials cannot say it about their Cabinet Ministers), and is keen to ensure that he is on top of each brief that comes his way.
Gove now tops a Tory membership survey on their views of Cabinet members’ performance. Even his detractors rate his intelligence, hard work, sense of purpose, and admire how he has come back from his humiliating failed leadership bid in 2016. Does this mean that he could be the next PM if May falls? Not necessarily. Doubts remain about his appeal to voters, and an ambitious bid could revive the view that he is untrustworthy and scheming. But at current odds, Field thinks that Gove is a key figure to keep an eye on – and a reminder that in politics, no victory or failure is final.