Gove addresses Westminster rumours

22 July 2021

4:23 PM

22 July 2021

4:23 PM

The wine was flowing at last night’s Policy Exchange summer soirée as attendees unburdened themselves of the stresses of the past eighteen months. Party season is at full swing at present but the great and the (not so) good of SW1 were all present to pay tribute at the court of the ‘most powerful Dean in Westminster’ – PX director Dean Godson and his team of wonks.

With the invite promising merely ‘a senior government minister’ Steerpike was delighted to see Michael Gove, one of the most talked about men in Westminster, take to the stage as the night’s keynote speaker. Gove, who recently announced he was divorcing wife Sarah, has been the subject of much speculation given his status at the heart of Whitehall.

And the Cabinet Office minister took the opportunity of the intimate setting of the cloisters at Westminster Abbey to address the subject with the attendant dozens of hacks, backbenchers, special advisers, various apparatchiks and hangers-on:

I think it’s only fair, given that we are in this wonderful, religiously blessed setting if I make a confession. There have, over the course of the last few weeks and days been rumours circulating in Westminster and I would like to address them: it is absolutely true that I was not the first-choice speaker this evening. Someone, much better looking, much more charismatic, much more authoritative, much more influential was down to speak this evening [Rishi Sunak]. Of the members of the government, that’s about every single one of them, but because of the adhesion to self-isolation principles, I’m afraid that that other minister isn’t able to join us this evening and so I am – and this has been something of a theme of the summer – a last minute substitute.

Undeterred by the government’s troubles with the England football team, the Cabinet Office minister then took the chance to have a sly pop at Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. Both players were brought on at the last minute to take penalties in the Euro 2020 final, only to miss them both:

Now, some last-minute substitutes this year haven’t necessarily fulfilled all of the hope vested in them. But nevertheless, even when they got things wrong, people forgave them because they were generous-hearted – the people who were doing the forgiving that is – and because we all recognised that ultimately, when it comes to any endeavour, it’s a team sport that ensures that you win.

Steerpike is sure the self-isolating Boris Johnson will be pleased to hear his powerful colleague reminding everyone about the importance of teamwork in ensuring success.<//>

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