Backbenchers rally to support Michael Gove after wife criticises reshuffle
Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine endorses article warning David Cameron would regret ‘shabby day’s work’.
The resentment felt by Michael Gove over his demotion in the cabinet reshuffle was highlighted on Wednesday when his wife, Sarah Vine, endorsed a Daily Mail article which warned that David Cameron would regret his “shabby day’s work”.
As Tory MPs showed their support for the former education secretary by giving him a warm welcome at meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, Vine tweeted a link to the article which described her husband as a more remarkable reformer than Margaret Thatcher.
“A shabby day’s work which Cameron will live to regret,” Vine tweeted as she linked to the Daily Mail article under the same headline by the former editor and historian Max Hastings.
The intervention by Vine, a Daily Mail columnist who also tweeted a link to a Times cartoon suggesting the prime minister would be grateful if her husband smothered himself, came as the reshuffle ran into trouble on a series of fronts.
Downing Street came under fire in the House of Lords after the position of leader of the Lords was downgraded from a full cabinet post. Lady Stowell of Beeston, who replaces Britain’s proposed next European commissioner, Lord Hill of Oare-ford, will attend cabinet, but will not be a full member. Downing Street was forced to announce that Hill will sell his shares in his former lobbying company after a backlash in the European parliament against his nomination.
The prime minister also faced criticism over the revelation that three of the sacked ministers will receive knighthoods. Alan Duncan, the former international development minister, and Hugh Robertson, the former Foreign Office minister, will receive KCMG knighthoods in the diplomatic list known as “Kindly Call Me God”. Oliver Heald, the former solicitor general, will receive the more modest domestic KBE.
The prime minister defended his decision to revive the tradition of political knighthoods. He told MPs: “I make no apology for saying that I think in public life we should recognise public service – people who have worked hard, people who have contributed to our nation and to our government. I think that is a good thing to do.”
But there was an ominous sign at prime minister’s questions of agitation on the right when the sacked Eurosceptic environment secretary Owen Paterson made a point of standing in a hostile manner next to the former defence secretary Liam Fox by the bar of the House of Commons. Friends of Fox say he was humiliated by the prime minister when he was offered the third post in the Foreign Office.
Tory MPs showed their irritation with the reshuffle when they gave a warm welcome to Gove as he took the place reserved for the chief whip at Wednesday’s meeting of the 1922 Committee, which was addressed by Theresa May. It was Gove’s recent confrontation with May over how to tackle extremism that helped persuade Cameron to demote his close friend.
The Gove camp were so angered by overnight reports in the Guardian, Daily Mail and Times that Tory campaign director Lynton Crosby had warned No 10 that he was toxic in polls, that Vine endorsed a Daily Mail article which said the reshuffle amounted to a “small earthquake in Whitehall”.
In the article, Hastings wrote: “The sacking of Michael Gove – for assuredly, his demotion from education secretary to chief whip amounts to nothing less – has shocked middle England. Here was the undisputed Tory hero of the past four years – a man with a mission, a crusader, an obsessive, who has shown the courage to hurl himself into the task of salvaging Britain’s ruined schools system in a fashion no other holder of his office in modern times has attempted.”
The criticism over the downgrading of the leader of the Lords was led by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, a former Scotland secretary, who is a respected figure on the right. Forsyth told peers: “It is vital that the leader of the house has the authority of a cabinet minister, especially given the large volume of legislation that comes from the other place undebated and unconsidered. She needs the authority to be able to say to other cabinet ministers: ‘This will not wash’, and to say to the prime minister: ‘I think you need to think again’.”
- The Guardian,