Michael Gove Left Squirming As Broadcasters Remind Him Of His Past With Boris Johnson

The levelling up secretary sidestepped the trip down memory lane, claiming he is just a "pussy cat".
Michael Gove spoke to the media about the headlines around Boris Johnson on Monday
Michael Gove spoke to the media about the headlines around Boris Johnson on Monday
BBC Breakfast/LBC/Sky

Michael Gove was repeatedly reminded of his rather unflattering past comments about Boris Johnson while on his morning media round on Monday.

The levelling up secretary is known to have a particularly turbulent relationship with the former PM, who dramatically stepped down as an MP last week.

Johnson resigned before the parliamentary privileges committee published its findings into whether or not he knowingly misled the Commons over partygate.

Gove was sent out to field questions about the ex-PM this morning.

He had to explain why Downing Street had still approved Johnson’s honours list, while responding to Johnson’s claims that the government removed nominees from it and trying to avoid further speculation about Tory civil war.

Gove was a particularly interesting choice of minister for today’s media round. A former ally of Johnson and fellow Brexiteer, Gove famously undermined Johnson’s leadership bid in 2016 at the 11th hour, and was kicked out of cabinet last July for encouraging Johnson to step down as prime minister.

So while Gove was attempting to defend Johnson, it’s no surprise that presenters were pretty quick to remind him that he hasn’t always been so supportive of his one-time colleague.

Sky News, Kay Burley

The Sky News presenter reminded Gove how he’s not been, uh, afraid to publicly withdraw his support for Johnson – or, as Burley put it: “You’ve knifed Boris Johnson in the back previously, haven’t you?”

Gove replied: “Well I’ve offered judgement at various critical points, yes.”

Burley also pointed out to the minster that he previously “suggested he was not fit for office”, to which Gove replied: “Boris is someone who has contributed an enormous amount to public life.”

BBC Breakfast, Sally Nugent

Nugent began her probe into the two politicians’ relationship by asking Gove if he was disappointed not to be included in Johnson’s honours list, where prime ministers praise their most loyal supporters.

Gove said: “Of all the surprises over the weekend, the least surprising thing for me was that I was not on that honours list.”

She hit back: “And is that because – I know you’ve just delivered fulsome praise for Boris Johnson over the last couple of minutes – but at times, you two did not get on, and at times you really turned your back on him, didn’t you?”

He replied: “It’s documented, very well-documented, that Boris and I had disagreements but it is also the case that I appreciated the opportunity he gave me to serve in his government, and during that time I did everything I could to help him.”

LBC, Nick Ferrari

Asked if Gove would support Johnson if he wanted to run as an MP again in the future, the minister replied: ″Boris has sometimes been on the receiving end of advice from me in the past, and sometimes he’s welcomed it, sometimes he hasn’t.

“But he makes his own mind up.”

Ferrari pushed: “What is the current state of the relationship between you, is it warm?”

Gove said he continues to respect Johnson, and he publicly had a “cordial and constructive” exchange with him over levelling up only last week.

Ferrari later added, “I know you two always like fighting,” to which Gove said: “No, you know I’m a pussy cat. The last thing I ever want to do is get into a scrap.”

BBC’s Today programme, Mishal Husain

The Radio 4 Today programme host asked the cabinet minister: “I want to ask you if you remember the words you used to describe Boris Johnson in 2016?”

“Even if I attempted to forget them, people would always remind me of them,” Gove replied.

Husain then quoted Gove’s famous comments about his co-Brexiteer: “He has great attributes but he is not capable of uniting the team and leading the party and country in a way I would have hoped.”

She noted that Gove may have spent time “rowing back” from those comments since, but asked does he now feel he had it right then?

The minister just sidestepped questions about their personal relationship again, instead pointing to Johnson’s success with the war in Ukraine and the global pandemic.


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