How Michael Gove fought off his enemies and bounced back

Michael Gove's sacking went down 'badly' reveals expert

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Michael Gove has been reappointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities by the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The MP for Surrey Heath was fired from the same position in July just hours after he told Boris Johnson to resign from office. Now, takes a look at how the Scotsman has bounced back over the years.  


Mr Gove and Mr Johnson’s relationship – which goes back more than three decades – had seen many ups and downs prior to his calling for the former Prime Minister to resign this summer.

Both former journalists, Mr Johnson was forced to pull out of the Conservative leadership race in 2016, which was eventually won by Theresa May, after his then ally Mr Gove announced that he was running and quitting as his campaign manager. 

The then Justice Secretary – who worked closely with the former Prime Minister on Brexit – sent ripple waves through the party when he said he could not back Mr Johnson because he lacked “focus and grip”. 

In a statement at the time, Mr Gove said: “I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be Prime Minister. That has always been my view. But events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me…I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future.”

He then returned to the backbenches in the summer of 2016 after he was sacked by Mrs May following his own unsuccessful leadership bid. 

Yet, all was not lost. The following year he was reappointed to Mrs May’s Cabinet as Environment Secretary alongside Mr Johnson who was had been made Foreign Secretary. 

It followed a row in the Home Office and the publication of confidential documents which attacked Mr Gove, and in an interview with Sky News in 2017, he said: “I was quite surprised, I have to say… I genuinely didn’t expect this role. I am delighted to be part of the Government, I am delighted to be able to support Theresa to ensure that we have a government capable of delivering on the people’s wishes.”

Mr Johnson tweeted jubilantly in response to the news, writing: “It’s a GOVErnment of all the talents. Welcome back to Michael!”

Fast forward to Mr Johnson’s time in office in 2019, Mr Gove was made Duchy of Lancaster. This had followed on from him once again entering into the leadership race against the former Prime Minister, which saw him being accused of “backstabbing”. Although he remained in the Cabinet, it was a less prominent role. 

Shortly after, however, he managed another step-up when he was made “Levelling Up” Secretary – the role he now has once again – in the 2021 reshuffle, replacing Robert Jenrick. 

Since 2016, it was widely thought that Mr Gove and Mr Johnson’s relationship had improved, particularly over the course of the coronavirus pandemic as he remained loyal to the former Prime Minister, including during the Partygate scandal. 

But this was not to last. Their relationship hit the rocks once again when the 55-year-old privately told Mr Johnson to resign following mass resignations, including that of the then Chancellor Mr Sunak. 

Mr Johnson refused to step down, instead firing Mr Gove with No 10 sources saying he was sacked because he was a “snake”. 

He dismissed the comment in a later interview with the BBC, saying Mr Johnson had been both “equitable” and “polite”, but he then announced his retirement from frontline politics in an article for The Times. 

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Mr Gove – who backed Mr Sunak in the leadership race – appeared to lose Ms Truss as an ally after he publicly dissed her mini-budget as he described it as “profoundly concerning”, claiming he would vote against it. 

He was once again described as a “snake”, with one insider telling The Telegraph: “Gove is an absolute snake. The way he has treated Liz is absolutely appalling. She called him in last week and asked him to help and this is how he repays her.”

Less than a month after making those comments, he is back in his old job as Mr Sunak claims to want to build a “united” Conservative Party. 

Sources told The Telegraph that Mr Gove and the new Prime Minister are “more friendly” in private than those on the outside might think. 

But Christine Hamilton told GB News on Tuesday that Mr Sunak was keeping his “enemies close”, and added: “You need to keep Gove where you can see him, and you need to keep his hands on the table where you can see them.”

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