Fern Britton meets former Conservative cabinet member Michael Gove, who played a prominent role in the Brexit campaign and then ran for the Tory party leadership.
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This summer saw some extraordinary events in British politics.
A referendum split the country in two...
I'm a Cornish fisherman. You're not.
..the Conservatives turned in on themselves,
pitting former allies against each other...
..and at the heart of the maelstrom was one man
whose actions were called backstabbing
and who accidentally leant his name to the phrase "doing a Gove".
Michael Gove is a divisive figure.
When he was Education Secretary,
he was attacked for being too tough on teachers.
I think the assault on the profession
is the worst that I've ever seen.
Yet when he was Justice Secretary,
he was accused of being too soft on prisoners.
When will the Secretary of State get back his mojo
and actually put the victims of crime
at the heart of what he is doing?
Michael Gove split with his close friend David Cameron over Europe,
and then, more famously, deserted Boris Johnson at the 11th hour
and launched his own bid to become Prime Minister instead.
That was one of the few moments
where the whole of Westminster gasps at once.
Mr Gove, did you betray Boris, Mr Gove?
The way in which I declared my stand for the leadership,
I shouldn't have done it in that way.
It was one of the most gigantic cases of cock-up
in the history of British politics.
I want to find out what drives Michael Gove
and what part religion plays in his life.
Religion makes you realise, literally,
there but for the grace of God go you.
I'm really intrigued to find out how Michael Gove squares his faith
with his actions in the heat of political battle.
He says he's a man of principle, but how does he feel
now he's been taken out of the centre of politics
and is on the back benches?
Has it all been worth it?
-What a year you have had!
-Well, it's been a busy year, yes.
How are you recovering, all right?
-Fine. I'm looking forward to Christmas.
Well, I think we all are. Let's think about that later.
Michael Andrew Gove was born on the 26th of August 1967 in Edinburgh.
MUSIC: Even The Bad Times Are Good by The Tremeloes
Shortly afterwards, he was given up for adoption.
Tell me a bit about your birth mother,
cos you know quite a lot about her, don't you?
I knew that when I was born I was named Graham Logan,
and I know that my birth mother was living in Edinburgh at the time
and almost certainly a student.
I was given up for adoption almost immediately.
Then I spent the first four months of my life effectively in care.
Obviously, I... I don't... I can't remember anything of it.
What I do know is that my adoptive parents, my mum and dad,
had been waiting to find the right child.
It was the 22nd of December we got the phone call
to say that they had a baby boy for us
and would we like to come and see him.
It was just magic.
I arrived with them in Aberdeen just before Christmas in 1967.
He was just so cuddly. A chubby.
Michael was adopted by Ernest and Christine
and became part of the Gove family,
who for generations had earned their living from the sea.
My dad ran a fish merchants' business.
It had been set up by my grandfather,
and Goves as far back as you can go
lived by the sea and from the sea. Fish were the...
It was the industry on which Aberdeen was built,
on which its initial prosperity was built,
and it was the business to which my grandad had devoted all his hours
in order to build up, and which my dad then took on and ran from him.
But the tradition wasn't destined to continue.
Michael would take the Gove name in a different direction.
When he was old enough, his dad took him down to the fish house.
That was tragedy.
His father, Ernest, he's lovely,
he's really sporty and really into football,
you know, a fisherman and all this sort of thing.
He had this child that was sort of the opposite, you know?
He didn't like to get his hands messed up.
He said to his dad, "This is not for me."
Despite their differences,
there was absolutely no doubt in Michael's mind
that this was the family where he belonged.
So, I mean, Michael was incredibly lucky
to land such a great pair of parents, I think.
I think that he owes an enormous debt to both of them.
That's why he's never tried to find his real mother.
I've felt, naturally, curious,
but I've often felt that if I were to try to make contact
with my birth mother, even though my own mum has said
that's absolutely fine,
she might take it as me saying that her love hadn't been enough.
-You can't be disloyal to your mum.
-That's the feeling I have, yes.
That must be...
Yes, just after he was born, but before the christening.
Being adopted has had a profound influence on Michael
and still shapes how he sees himself today.
'It's inevitably a risk if you accept someone into your life,'
albeit that they're only four months old,
whom you know nothing about other than the barest bones
of their identity,
and so therefore I've always felt a particular sense
of wanting to convince my parents
that they didn't make a mistake in taking me in.
Well, I just used to say to him, "Look, be nice to your elders,
"you know, and treat people with respect."
I think he's done that, you know, our Michael, yeah.
They've always been very careful to make sure
that I don't get above myself.
If ever I've been arrogant or bumptious,
and I certainly have been at various points in my career,
it's always been despite, not because of, the upbringing I had.
They've always been keen to make sure that I never forget
that I was the little boy who was naughty, forgetful,
difficult, all of these things.
Michael's mother was also keen to instil another quality in her son.
Where was church in your childhood? Were your parents religious?
My mum was religious, my dad not,
so I used to go with my mum to a church
called Causewayend Church, which is now St Stephen's.
Church became a regular part of Michael's childhood,
attending Sunday school and joining the Boys' Brigade.
When you're a child in church, though,
it is very hard to grasp some of the things that are said, some of the...
some of the mystery and magic of the religion.
Mm. I... I think it was once I reached a particular age,
I was asked to become a Sunday-school teacher myself.
I think it was at that point that I began to ask myself questions
about what I genuinely believed - was I simply accepting,
as a child would, what their parents,
or in this case my mum, said was good for them,
or did I now have a chance to make my own judgment?
The more I reflected on it, the more I thought and prayed,
the more I was convinced by the truths of the Christian faith.
It was a process of deepening and intensification and reflection
rather than a single, special moment.
He's quite spiritual, Michael.
I mean, he's much more spiritual than me.
I mean, he properly goes to church and actually,
sort of, you know, prays.
You know, whereas I sort of go to church
and have a coffee and a gossip.
There have been moments when I've had, you know, doubts,
and there've certainly been moments when I've behaved in a way
which is completely inconsistent
with the profession of Christian belief.
He likes to sit and contemplate.
He's quite hard on himself as well,
and so I think he enjoys going to church because it allows him
a chance to have a sort of dialogue with himself, with God,
about how he feels about how things are going.
From an early age,
his parents began to notice something different about Michael.
Well, his mum told me that when he was about sort of four or five,
or maybe a bit sooner, they kind of realised that he was really clever.
He really just couldn't pass a book shop.
I had to get books for him all the time.
He always carried a book with him, our Michael.
The young Michael excelled at primary school,
and his parents sent him to one of the best
public schools in Aberdeen - Robert Gordon College.
Its motto, be the best that you can be.
My parents sacrificed a lot in order to pay for the fees for
me to go to school, and then while I was at school,
my dad's business went to the wall, he sold it on.
At that time, I was lucky and I managed to win a scholarship
while I was there.
That helped to pay most of the fees, so I was able to carry on there.
When the Michael Gove hand went up in the air,
I'd be mentally thinking, "What's he going to ask me this time?"
And, more importantly, "Will I know the answer?"
-You were a bit of a swot at school.
-I was a speccy swot.
You talk to any of my teachers, they'll also say that there
was a willingness to cause trouble sometimes.
A naughtiness, a mischievous streak in me.
Apparently he was an absolute nightmare as a child to teach.
Apparently he tortured his teachers horribly.
He does have a kind of really subversive streak.
At my worst, I was just a complete smart aleck, and I would ask
the clever-dick questions from the back of the class.
Being a clever dick paid off. Michael Gove won a place at Oxford.
He left his home and his parents in Aberdeen
and arrived at one of the most elite educational institutions
in the world.
In 1985, you went up to Oxford, Lady Margaret Hall, to read English.
How different was that, the Oxford spires et cetera, to Aberdeen?
It was... It was different.
There were all sorts of people who were incredibly self-confident,
who appeared already to have a huge network of friends, you know,
so I felt in my first couple of days and weeks there,
as I think lots of students probably do
when they first arrive at university,
nervous and wondering if I would ever really fit in
and make friends.
But Michael did make friends.
He became immersed in a world of intellect and privilege
and a place where influential allegiances were formed.
Well, I met Michael Gove when I was at university,
because I was interested in debating and there was
a debating society in Oxford called the Oxford Union.
Now to conclude the case for Oxford, I have the greatest pleasure
in welcoming Mr Michael Gove.
Michael was a... He was sort of a legendary debater, really.
Mr Speaker, sir, ladies and gentlemen...
Very effective, very clever.
You said that liberty was so precious it must be rationed.
Lenin originally said that.
He was just really well known throughout the university.
And it's for that reason that I seek to propose the motion tonight.
But there were other students who were also destined
to make an impression.
There were a lot of people who were there in my time who ended up
playing a big role in politics.
David Cameron was here.
He was at Brasenose at the time that you were at Lady Margaret Hall.
Where was he? Was he in his final year as well?
-David was an exact contemporary of mine.
-So we were both...
We both arrived in 1985, we both graduated in 1988.
I didn't know David at the time that I was at Oxford.
-Never met him?
-Never met him.
I'm sure we might have been in the same room at the same time
at some event or other, but I only met him subsequently.
But there was another future Tory Michael Gove did encounter.
You met Boris Johnson there, I think, on your first day?
-In my first week at university, I bumped into Boris.
-In the Union bar.
So Boris was, at that point, he was running
to become president of the Oxford Union,
-though I didn't know it when I first met him.
Honourable members wishing to vote in favour of the motion
will occupy the benches on my right...
The same mop of blond hair, the same apparently absent-minded
but in fact incredibly focused speaking style.
There being 167 votes in favour of the motion.
The same good humour and the same, you know...
What's the word? Romantic desire to be at the centre of things.
I declare the motion overwhelmingly carried,
and I close the house at 12:18am.
-And for the first time, you became his campaign manager.
-Well, I was...
At that time, I was his supporter rather than campaign manager.
I said at the time, I think, that I was a votary of the cult of Boris.
He was the big man on campus and I was one of the new freshers
who'd arrived who was one of his supporters.
Of course, this was a period, the 1980s,
when political passions ran high.
The mid-'80s were a pivotal time in British politics.
HE EXCLAIMS, CHEERING
The miners had been defeated.
Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister for the third time.
You know, we've got a big job to do.
During this time, Michael Gove began to shape his own political views.
Well, my recollection of Michael at university
was that he was very politically motivated
in the sense that he was obviously interested in politics
and interested in ideas and had strong views on politics.
When I was at school in 1983,
I stood as the Labour candidate in the school's general election.
When I was, you know, in my early teenage years,
I was very interested in politics,
but I would have said that I was left wing.
I joined the Labour Party in Aberdeen.
But by the time I arrived at university, I...
I pretty much knew that I was a Tory.
But at university, Michael acquired a taste for more than just politics.
I discovered the pleasures of Oxford's pubs.
THEY SING TUNE
I'm afraid I probably spent more time in the White Horse
than I did in the Bodleian Library while I was there.
Well, that's not a bad thing.
I think that's what students do need to do.
So you left university. Did you get a good degree?
Well, I... I got a better degree
than most people thought I was going to get. I got a 2:1,
so I was...em, eh, relieved by that.
I got a letter from one of my tutors afterwards saying
I think words to the effect of,
"Dear Michael, congratulations on your degree.
"I have to say, however astonished you were,
"you weren't half as amazed as we were.
"One piece of advice for the future -
"never sail so close to the wind ever again."
I'm not sure whether or not it was advice I actually took.
-I was going to say.
-But it was very well meant.
Very well meant.
After university, Michael Gove returned to Aberdeen
and joined the local paper as a trainee journalist.
He promptly got involved in a dispute
about newspaper staff joining the union
and rather surprisingly ended up on a picket line.
Another committed Tory was a trainee on the paper
when the dispute broke out.
Surely as a Conservative I should believe in freedom of choice?
I believe that people should have the choice to be members of a union
and to be governed by collective bargaining
or to sign individual contracts if they wish.
Michael's ambitions were bigger than local journalism,
and in 1991, he moved to London, reporting for the BBC.
Well, I first knew Michael Gove on On The Record,
which was a BBC lunchtime politics programme.
He was then a baby-faced Scottish Thatcherite.
The Conservatives believe that tax cuts will win them votes.
very argumentative and very quick in argument.
And the bad news doesn't end there.
Wonderful colleague to have, because he would argue with anything,
but he would do it so politely that you didn't feel offended in any way.
In 1996, Michael Gove started working for The Times.
There he came across a fellow journalist called Sarah Vine.
They met on a work skiing trip.
I'd never been skiing before. I was persuaded to go by a mutual friend.
Someone dropped out at the last moment,
and Sarah was the last-minute replacement.
So we met for the first time on the train going to this ski resort.
Someone said, "Michael Gove's going," and I thought,
"Oh, no, that's like your boss going on holiday with you."
We got there and he was just the funniest person there.
I mean, he was hilarious because he couldn't ski at all.
Sarah had been brought up in Italy,
skiing in the Italian Alps, and was a natural.
I was not.
He joined a beginners' group,
so it was Michael and about 20 four-year-old French children.
I can do it better than you.
All of whom easily outpaced me.
At that point, I was convinced that this was going to be
one of the worst weeks of my life.
After about three days, I said to him, "I think you should stop
"wasting your money and I'll show you the basics."
And we fell in love as Sarah taught me how to ski.
He's very entertaining. That's why I married him, really.
Two things, really - the fact that he's so kind
and the fact that he is such good company.
I mean, you're never bored with Michael.
You might be extremely annoyed or you might be frustrated,
you might be furious because he's just won another argument
or whatever it is, but you are never bored.
Michael and Sarah married,
and on their wedding guest list were some rather familiar names.
-You got married in 2001 in France.
-I think you had about 60 guests.
-The Camerons were there too.
The Camerons were there, the Osbornes were there...
I mean, there were lots of people who have gone on to sort of become
incredibly famous who, at the time, were just sort of ordinary...
I mean, ordinary friends.
These friends had been brought together by similar views
about the world.
Michael Gove shared a vision with David Cameron and
George Osborne about how Britain should be run.
Together with other young Conservatives,
they became known as the Notting Hill set,
a group who would define Conservative politics
for over a decade.
I think politics is driven by ideas,
and we wanted to put forward ideas
that would help the Conservative Party
get back on its feet and drive a new agenda.
Well, I think Michael Gove was probably David Cameron's
second closest political friend, after George Osborne.
He was a guy he leant on intellectually and, you know,
they became quite close friends.
Political friendships are slightly odd things,
they always have underlying agendas,
but insofar as you can be good friends in politics,
Michael Gove and David Cameron were pretty close.
The friendship became more than just political
as their families began to spend time together.
But I did know David and Samantha quite well,
not least because they lived just around the corner
from where we're sitting now and where I still live.
-Yeah, and you would holiday together.
You know, supper, stuff like that.
'Play dates. Picking children up, that kind of stuff.'
Godparents to their children.
-Sarah is godparent to...
..Florence, exactly, the Camerons' youngest.
Very fizzy, vibrant people.
By 2002, Michael Gove had become closely connected
with David Cameron and the Conservative Party.
Although now a successful journalist,
Michael had a desire to join his friend in politics.
When we got married, he said, "Don't worry, I won't go into politics."
I thought, "This is good. Fantastic."
Then that lasted about two years, I think, then he said to me,
"Do you mind? You know how I said I wouldn't go into politics?"
I think he's felt, "Actually, now is the time
"to get my hands dirty and actually put into practice what I believe."
How much of your Christian belief made you go into politics?
It's difficult to know sometimes where faith ends
and other parts of your character begin.
But one of the things that I did think is
that you've got an obligation to put something back.
You've got an obligation to use whatever talents you have
to help other people.
Of course, politics is an arena full of ego and ambition,
but almost every politician I know
is driven by a desire to make the world a better place,
to help others.
So I think there's an element of Michael where he thinks,
"Because I'm adopted I've been given a second chance."
He's all about redemption. He wants to... He wants to...
I don't know, he just wants to make things better.
You know, that's his thing.
I think that at its best, and I hope certainly in my case,
that religion makes you realise, literally,
there but for the grace of God go you.
Life can be tough and it can be particularly tough
for those who don't have some of the advantages that I've enjoyed,
and so therefore what it does is that it gives you an opportunity
to examine your own life and to try to do better,
but also to look at the lives of other people
and to try to help them.
It was his old friend David Cameron who gave Michael Gove the push
to put his ideals into action.
I want a party that looks to the future,
a party that's a 21st-century party that is modern and compassionate
and understands the aspirations and hopes and dreams of the people.
Cameron was putting together this team to sort of take over the
Tory Party, and he wanted his A team on the pitch,
and he felt that Gove was the sort of intellectual firepower of
the gang and he encouraged him to get into politics.
So how did Mr Cameron persuade you to stand as a Tory candidate?
It all happened in public in that I'd written an article
criticising the Conservatives for some of the mistakes
that they were making,
and David was a backbencher who had a column in the Guardian.
So he wrote a column and addressed it to me, basically saying,
"Well, if you believe things, it's not enough
"simply to argue for things in an article.
"If you believe things, try to make a difference."
In 2005, Michael stood as the Conservative Party candidate
for Surrey Heath, and on the 6th of May,
he was elected as a Member of Parliament.
It's like being a new boy at school.
I mean, Westminster is like a big boarding school. It's very exciting.
When you're an MP, no-one knows anything about you.
You know, for the first few years, it was just very easy and quiet.
He just really enjoyed it.
But that relative anonymity was about to become a thing of the past.
In 2010, the country went to the polls.
With 48 hours to go till we vote, the Prime Minister is trying to tell
the country, "You may want change, but you simply can't risk it."
After 13 years in Government, Labour would be defeated.
Ten o'clock, and this is what we're saying - it's going to be
a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party.
In its place there was a coalition government,
led by a new Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron.
I'm delighted to be standing here with the new Deputy Prime Minister,
the two of us together leading this historic
Liberal Democrat-Conservative administration.
He appointed Michael Gove as his Secretary of State for Education.
2010, you became Education Secretary. Was it a job you wanted?
Oh, yes. The, um...
I had spent three years in opposition,
shadowing Ed Balls when he was Education Secretary,
and I was absolutely determined that, if I got the chance to,
that we'd make big changes.
I'm Michael, nice to meet you. What's your name?
He began as this sort of great reformer who was bringing in
rigour and new standards and tougher exams.
He said his aim was to improve children's attainment
and give heads more control.
But the teachers themselves were not convinced.
We work in a culture of fear, not one of working together.
If Ofsted is a cause of fear then...
..then I'm, you know, grateful for your candour,
but I'm afraid we're going to have to part company.
Michael Gove was perceived as a horror show by a lot of teachers
and thought that here's a guy who was a sort of dyed-in-the-wool Tory
who was trying to wreck their profession.
They don't see you as a human being at all.
They see you as a sort of caricature, you know,
a monster, really. You have to be quite tough.
CHANTING: Gove must go! Gove must go!
He got himself involved in just needless conflict
with teachers and the teaching establishment.
He should have concentrated much more on his central message,
which didn't always come across, which was that he was about
raising standards for everyone and especially people on lower incomes.
You got a great deal of criticism not just from
-teachers but from parents as well.
I've recently been to a parents' evening,
I do not understand the grades on the report.
I had to have the teacher explain it to me.
Well, every time that you change exams and you change curricula,
there's always that change-over period where people,
having got used to one system, have to get used to another.
But why turn it upside down?
The change was necessary in order to deal with the way in which
more and more people were getting qualifications
that employers didn't trust.
The other thing was that people were arriving at university
really bright but without the skills
of spelling, grammar and punctuation,
or essay writing, or deep mathematical ability.
The children would come home with an enormous amount of homework.
They come home, they might have ten minutes, a quick cup of tea,
and then it's work and it's work and it's work.
This is producing children with tremendous anxiety.
I think that schoolwork, properly set, can give children
a sense of achievement and purpose and higher self-esteem.
Yes, but properly set is the thing, but they don't get a minute.
Every weekend, they're working.
Erm, I have the chance to help my son with his homework
now that he's in secondary school, and my daughter as well,
but I think that the amount that they're set,
while it's demanding, it's not excessive.
I think that it equips them to succeed in the world outside.
But what I'll say to you is when your children
get to GCSEs and A levels, you will see the difference and you'll see
them stressing and you'll see them perhaps sitting up
at two in the morning still writing essays.
The other thing is the schools are now obviously very keen
on pushing all the successes and GCSEs through,
but what happens is they're not necessarily learning to love
their subject, it's all about the grades.
I agree that there have been some exams
-and indeed some schools that have...
-I'd say the majority.
..that have treated education as an exercise in ticking boxes
or jumping through hoops.
One of the reasons that we did change was to make them less
exercises in box ticking and more exercises in deep thought,
but so many of the changes that we brought about
were designed to instil a love of subject in children
and to instil, in particular, a love of literature, history,
scientific exploration, mathematical reasoning.
I can guarantee that there'll be parents up and down the land
saying to you, "That doesn't happen in our school, mate."
Why do you think you lost the job?
I think, ultimately, I got involved in too many arguments.
As to whether or not everything I did was right, it's still,
for me, too soon to make that judgment.
I'm really heartened by the fact that there are people who are,
I think, objective about it,
who think that education improved over those four years.
But after four years as Education Secretary,
Michael Gove was certainly not achieving high marks
in the popularity stakes.
Teachers didn't give him any credit for any of the reforms he'd made,
and David Cameron's polling advisor just said,
"Look, this guy is completely toxic, you've got to move him."
-Did David Cameron call you into the office and say...
Once the Prime Minister says, "I'd like to move you,"
if you say, "No, I insist on staying,"
then, you know, the clock is ticking.
But that wasn't quite the end of the matter.
Max Hastings, at the Daily Mail,
wrote an article saying it was a shoddy day's work
that David Cameron would live to regret,
and Sarah Vine tweeted a link to that article.
I get a bit Italian about these things.
I was really cross with them.
Michael worked his absolute heart out
and the teachers hated it and the unions hated it
and he took all that opprobrium
and all of those people saying horrible things,
and I think just suddenly having the rug pulled out
from underneath you like that was just bad form.
One of the, you know, astonishing things about politics
is the way that spouses sometimes get involved,
fight battles on their husbands' behalf.
And, you know, Sarah Vine was possibly the most
sort of unguided missile in British politics.
In 2015, the country went back to the polls, and this time,
the Conservatives won an outright majority.
I've just been to see Her Majesty the Queen
and I will now form a majority Conservative government.
For Michael Gove, it meant a new appointment to Lord Chancellor
and Secretary of State for Justice.
All the lawyers thought, "This is going to be a complete nightmare,
"it's just going to be like it was when he was at Education,"
and they were expecting to be sort of just like the teachers,
loathing his guts.
Almost the first thing he did was to go round the prisons,
and I remember him coming home and saying,
"You know, this has got to change."
What he was doing in Justice
was exactly the same as he was doing in Education -
he was saying, "Everybody can have
"a decent life and a decent start
"and it's our responsibility, moral responsibility,
"to ensure that we do that."
I wonder, from his experience in Education,
how much he would have delivered on his wonderful words,
but, you know, he seriously did say all the right things
about reforming the prison system.
It's because I'm a Conservative
I believe that evil must be punished,
but it's also because I'm a Conservative and a Christian
that I believe in redemption
and I think the purpose of our prison system
and our criminal justice system is to keep people safe
by making people better.
Was it something about your Christian beliefs
that helped you think you could reform prisons?
Well, my...my beliefs influenced how I did both jobs.
One of the things that really drove me
was a belief that people are capable of rehabilitation and redemption
and that no-one should be defined
by the mistakes that they've made in the past.
Famously, Alastair Campbell said, "We don't do God,"
talking about the Tony Blair premiership,
so Christianity...does still stand for something in politics,
though, do you think?
I think it does. I wouldn't make any special claim
that having a religious faith makes some people better than others.
Absolutely not. But it's undeniably the case
that some of the people with whom I worked,
not just in Parliament, but in prisons,
are impelled by their religious faith
to try and find the best in others.
Michael's aspirations as Justice Secretary were short-lived.
The Conservatives had to deliver on a big election promise.
I will go to Parliament and propose that the British people
decide our future in Europe
through an in/out referendum on Thursday the 23rd of June.
For Michael, the prospect posed a dilemma.
There goes Michael Gove.
Was it a difficult decision, Mr Gove?
An awkward entrance
for one of the Prime Minister's closest friends, who'll oppose him.
He's been a Eurosceptic all his political career,
but he was also very loyal to David Cameron, who,
as Prime Minister, had been a bit of a Eurosceptic,
but had decided to try and work with the European Union
and try and make it better and have a referendum on it.
Before I made the final decision,
I went back home to see my mum and dad,
and my father's business, as I say,
was affected very badly by the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy,
and I knew my mum and dad were going to vote for us
to leave the European Union.
So, it wasn't easy.
In the end, I thought that it was better to, um...
to say to David that I couldn't support him
and to go with my heart
than to suppress my feelings on the matter.
I think David Cameron expected Michael Gove to support him,
because he thought that Michael Gove was a friend.
For a long time, you found it difficult to be able to say that.
You kind of hinted at it with him,
but he still thought you were going to be a Remainer.
Yes. He thought... He knew that I was a Eurosceptic.
-But he thought that I would, um...uh...
..either keep schtum or,
as some members of the Government did,
say, "Well, on balance,
"I'm going to support the Prime Minister and stay in."
But I felt that it's about putting forward ideas in which you believe,
hoping that people will support those ideas,
acknowledging that, if they don't support those ideas,
that you are there to serve them, not to indulge yourself.
Michael decided to openly campaign for the Leave vote.
I think Michael, in order to keep his relationship with David
and assure him,
told him that he wouldn't play much of a prominent role
in the campaign, and ended up doing so,
and therefore, however much both of them began the campaign
with the good intention that it wouldn't break up their friendship,
inevitably, it pulled people apart.
You let him down.
He really thought he was relying on you, but you did let him down.
How did you square that with your conscience and your friendship?
Because your friendship became super strained.
It did. I think David undoubtedly felt let down,
but if I'd done anything different,
I'd have been letting other people down.
I felt I would have let my family down,
because I wasn't following through on...honouring their experience
and following the convictions I'd grown up with.
Michael hit the campaign trail.
..is if we send them this powerful signal
that it is going in the wrong direction
by voting to leave on June 23rd.
It soon became clear that membership of the EU
ignited fierce passions on both sides of the debate.
Bring back Britain's fishing industry,
destroyed by Brussels.
Our boats are dumping tonnes of fish this very day
because of the EU quotas.
-Do me a favour, just...
Why don't you go away?
I'm a Cornish fisherman, and you're not.
Cornish fishermen want our fishing grounds back!
It all escalated and it all became very, very histrionic,
and that is a great shame, because things, I think,
were done and said that perhaps ought not to have been done and said.
Good evening, and welcome, at the end of this momentous day,
when each one of us has had the chance to say
what kind of country we want to live in.
Over the course of the campaign,
the polls had predicted that it was going to be close.
We'll have the answer to the question
that's haunted British politics for so long -
do we want to be in or out of the EU?
The night of the referendum, June the 23rd 2016,
is a date for generations of history students to discuss.
-So what was it like in this house that night?
Did you... "Well, we've done our best..."?
Well, we had some friends round for dinner,
most of whom had been people who'd voted leave -
not all of whom.
But I slipped off to bed early.
Michael was just, "I've got to go to bed now cos I'm exhausted
"and I've been campaigning solid for the last goodness knows how long,
"and...I just need to go to sleep, cos whatever happens,
"I'll have to get up in the morning and do the radio and the telly
"and I just want to be vaguely sentient."
A lot of people felt that...Remain was going to win.
I certainly believed Remain was going to win
and maybe Michael believed Remain was going to win and just...
End of a long campaign, go to bed, wake up and regroup.
I was woken up at a bit after four,
when one of my friends who was working on the campaign
rang me to say, "Michael, we've won."
And I remember telling it to Sarah, and saying,
"Well, I suppose I better get up, then."
-Then Michael got up and said, "Crivens!"
That's what he always says when he's very surprised.
And then, you know, a few hours later, he and Boris appeared,
looking rather shocked at what they'd done.
Vote Leave celebrated their success.
We can build a new, stronger and more positive relationship
with our European neighbours
based on free trade and friendly cooperation.
As leader of the defeated Remain campaign, Michael's old friend,
the Prime Minister, now felt he had only one choice.
But the British people have made a very clear decision
to take a different path and, as such,
I think the country requires fresh leadership
to take it in this direction.
Did you get a message to him?
We did talk that day, yes.
You did? Did you ring him or he ring you?
We talked... Probably better not to say.
We talked that day.
How was that conversation that day? Was it sad? Recriminations? Anger?
Um, again, without going through things,
I think that it's fair to say that he behaved
as he...as he pretty much has,
throughout all the time I've known him - with incredible decency.
They've got a lot of history together.
Um...personally, I can imagine a situation in which they would be
more friendly in future than they are now,
but their relationship will never be quite the same.
There's every chance that, at some point in the next couple of years,
when they find themselves in the same room,
they'll have a perfectly jovial chat
and they'll brush it all under the carpet.
The bigger problem is that the wives
are not terribly interested in doing that.
Well, I haven't spoken to them since just before the referendum.
So that's it. We haven't had any communication.
Um, you know, I'm very...
My door's always open but, you know...
That's where we are at the moment.
How much did it damage your friendship with the Camerons?
Um, I think that it was...
It's difficult to sort of quantify that,
but it's undoubtedly the case that, um...it's put
-a significant strain, absolutely, on it.
Have you spoken to them since he resigned?
Um, not in the...
We haven't had a proper conversation, no.
No. OK. And I know that Sarah and Samantha were friends,
and that's been damaged, too?
Uh, yes. It's placed a significant strain on that, yeah.
The Conservative Party needed a new leader.
After a starring Brexit role,
Boris Johnson was preparing to throw his hat into the ring
and it seemed Michael Gove was going to back his campaign.
Michael had always told all of his friends,
"I'm not going to run for the leadership.
"If I ever think of running for the leadership,
"you will ring me and tell me I've lost my marbles?"
He doesn't really want to be Prime Minister.
It's not really, you know... It's not what his thing is.
I mean, I think he just really wanted to be Education Secretary.
And you were famously saying things like,
"I do not have what it takes,"
and, "I do not have the qualities to be Prime Minister,"
and, "Give me a piece of parchment and I'll write it in blood" -
all of those amazing things.
Did you really believe that at the time,
that you were not Prime Minister material?
Yeah, no, and that's why I didn't run at the beginning -
because I thought that he would be better equipped
and that the ideal situation would be for him to take over.
I hoped that I'd be able to stay in the government,
but for me to try and help Boris to become Prime Minister.
Are you going to announce that you're standing today, Mr Johnson?
-Good morning, everybody. So sorry...
-Is today the day?
But there were rumblings that, behind the scenes,
not everything was going according to plan.
So, once Gove had agreed to support Johnson,
he then wanted to get certain things agreed -
basically, how they would run the government together.
Now, that deal was never quite properly done.
Michael Gove's wife got involved, fighting her husband's corner,
sending this e-mail, which was leaked,
telling Michael and his advisors to be their "stubborn best".
For some reason,
another person with the same surname ended up in the sending slot.
So he obviously, immediately, sent it to the papers.
Felt sorry for her that it leaked, but it wasn't stupid advice.
He did need to tie down his relationship with Boris,
which hadn't been tied down.
Well, that e-mail was, um...a way of Sarah trying to make sure
that I remembered some of the things that we were supposed to discuss
about how Number Ten should work.
So it was more about the...the direction
and the operation of government than anything else.
Did you want to be Chancellor?
I wasn't sure myself what job I should do.
The one thing I did think was that things needed to change overall.
Of course, the rumours, again, at the time,
were that you were game playing,
lulling Mr Johnson into a sense of false security.
Um...those were certainly things that lots of people said afterwards,
but the reality is that I couldn't have been,
because I spent lots of my time in that week -
almost till the very last moment -
to do everything I could to ensure that people saw Boris' virtues
and that he could be, um...assured of their support.
I mean, he's known Boris for a long time,
but he didn't know Boris' team and...he...
After they'd agreed that Boris was going to do it and all of that,
there were a series of cock-ups which happened
which just drove him nuts.
They didn't expect to win the referendum.
They didn't expect David Cameron to resign.
They didn't expect to be in the position
where they had to make complex decisions about Brexit.
They hadn't got their relationship together.
And he just thought, "Oh, my God, this is a disaster.
"He's not ready. They're not ready. It's not going to work.
"I've got to stop this from happening.
"It's not going to... It's just not right.
"None of it's right. None of it's right!"
He decided to go...to go on a kamikaze mission
and blow up both him and Boris Johnson.
On a Thursday morning at the end of June,
the country woke up expecting Boris Johnson
to announce he was standing for the leadership.
I'll be giving a speech at 11 o'clock this morning
at Policy Exchange, and I look forward to seeing you there.
But Michael Gove called a press conference of his own.
I stand here and I'm standing for the leadership
not as a result of calculation...
Certainly not as a result of calculation.
I think he felt, "Well, I've backed...
"You know, I've backed Leave
"and I must, you know, I must step up to the plate."
Michael does whatever he thinks to be the right thing,
sometimes without worrying enough about whether it breaks the china.
I just thought, "This is mad,
"because not only is he not going to end up being leader,
"but he's going to destroy Boris Johnson's chances
"of being leader."
After digesting the shock news,
Boris Johnson made his leadership ambitions clear.
Well, I must tell you, my friends,
you who have waited faithfully for the punchline of this speech,
that, having consulted colleagues
and in view of the circumstances in Parliament,
I have concluded that person cannot be me.
That was one of those few moments
where the whole of Westminster gasps at once.
Everybody was just watching the television
as if they weren't actually at the event itself.
I cannot, you know, unfortunately,
get on with doing what I wanted to do.
So it'll be up to somebody else, now,
and I wish them every possible success.
All the assumptions of, you know,
previous weeks had just been thrown out of the window,
which were that Boris Johnson was going to be Prime Minister,
and, suddenly, he wasn't, all because Michael Gove
had...had stabbed him in the back, as it seemed.
-What have you got to say...?
Mr Gove? Did you betray Boris, Mr Gove?
Mr Gove, why should people trust you?
His big mistake was to not tell Boris Johnson immediately
that he was planning to withdraw his support
and that he was going to run himself for the leadership.
Had he done so, Boris Johnson would have had several hours
to think about his reaction and he may well have concluded
that he had enough support to carry on and keep fighting.
What's your message to Michael Gove, Mr Johnson?
Good morning, everybody. Have a great day, everybody.
Have a good one. Nice to see you.
That morning that you did stand, it's interesting...
-Did you call him?
Because I read that you didn't. He didn't hear from you.
No, I rang - that morning, I tried to speak to Boris,
but the phone rang dead when I called him,
so I then spoke to his lieutenant,
in order to explain what we were going to do.
So, no, I did definitely try to ring Boris at the time.
Well, you put out the statement, saying, "Boris cannot provide
"the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.
"I have therefore decided to put my name forward for the leadership."
Yes, I think, as I look back,
the way in which I declared my standing for the leadership,
I shouldn't have done it in that way, yeah.
Any sense of...feeling you'd let yourself down?
As I look back on that time,
I think that there were mistakes that I made, but as I say,
it's still relatively...
I'm still relatively close to those events,
so I'm still in the process of reflecting on what I got wrong
and what I called right.
With the Brexit partnership in tatters,
Boris Johnson's supporters were bewildered - even bitter.
Their initial reaction was that this was a premeditated plot,
that Michael Gove had got alongside Boris Johnson,
deliberately run him for the leadership,
got the campaign up and running,
and then knifed him in the back in order to help himself.
Cartoonists and newspaper headline writers had a field day.
I mean, both Michael and I are quite, funnily enough,
quite naive like that.
We're not very skilled, um...
I think it's... We're not very good game players.
Um...and some people are really good at that
and, um...we're quite in-the-moment people.
And we were all very much in the moment,
and...this wasn't our finest moment.
But it was in the moment.
This was not a conspiracy.
It was one of the most gigantic cases of cock-up
in the history of British politics.
It's... It must be hurtful,
knowing that the press have labelled you a backstabber.
"It was an extraordinary act of treachery,"
"It would forever be known as 'doing a Gove'."
I know that I made a mistake,
so there's no point in me complaining.
I've got to bear the consequences of my own actions.
Did you speak to Boris on that day, eventually, after you'd...?
No, I spoke to him subsequently.
How was that?
Um...to be fair to Boris, that was a private conversation,
and again, to be fair to Boris,
he's someone who has shown throughout his career -
and I don't think people have always appreciated this -
a generosity of spirit.
Do you feel a Christian responsibility
to repair the relationship now?
I don't think it's necessarily simply a Christian thing.
I think that there is a responsibility on anyone,
after...making an error or making a mistake,
A, to reflect on it,
and B, to show whatever generosity of spirit they can towards others.
So, my view has been, don't try to, um...make excuses.
Take responsibility yourself for your actions.
I also think that, um, my initial instinct,
that I was not the best person to put themselves forward
as a potential Prime Minister...
Well, most of my colleagues agreed.
Good afternoon. As returning officer
in the Conservative Party leadership election 2016,
Michael Gove failed to make the final shortlist of candidates.
He managed only 46 of the 329 votes.
On the 13th of July,
Theresa May became the new leader of the Conservative Party
and Prime Minister.
I have just been to Buckingham Palace,
where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me
to form a new government, and I accepted.
Theresa May, when she became Prime Minister,
appointed three of the four leading supporters of Brexit to her cabinet,
and the one she didn't appoint was Michael Gove.
When I launched my leadership campaign,
I said that politics is not a game...
When Theresa became Prime Minister,
she said that she no longer had a place for me in the Cabinet,
and, to be honest, if I'd been in her shoes,
I would have sacked me, too.
So I entirely accept that sacking me at the time
was the right thing to do.
So, Mrs May as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary,
you're back on the back benches.
I had six years when I was a government minister.
I had a chance to make a difference. I hope that I did.
But, um...nothing is forever in politics
and, having had the chance to serve,
having had the chance to make a difference,
I have to accept that the way in which I spent
the final week or so of my ministerial life
involved my making mistakes and,
having made mistakes, you have to take the consequences.
I think you only get one chance to go for the leadership
of your political party these days.
Um...and certainly, if, in doing that,
you acquire a reputation for being untrustworthy
and for betraying your colleagues,
then I don't think you get a second chance.
May's big agenda is to pursue social reform
on behalf of the just-about-managing classes.
Gove is a great social reformer, and you can see a world
in which he gets a job and contributes something again.
So...the next year is going to be an interesting time.
If Gove stays on-message, I think he can come back.
If he doesn't, he'll be dead to her forever.
Your future political ambitions are what?
Well, at the moment, I'm hoping to play a role
in making a success of Britain leaving the European Union.
I'm on the Select Committee that looks into that,
and I also want to continue campaigning to help children
who are at risk of abuse or neglect,
to make sure that they are either taken into care or fostered
or, as I was, adopted.
There's no doubt at all that,
during what has been a pretty tempestuous year for him,
he will have taken quite a lot of recourse
in his faith, in his family.
I think that Michael needed a break from front-line politics.
I think that people do.
It's very hard work and it's also quite all-consuming.
No, he's much less...much less exhausted
and much less stressed than he has been.
Um... You know, he's got his...
He's a bit more fun, which is nice.
I don't know what the future holds for him,
but the one thing I'd be amazed by is if we found him fizzling out.
This time last year, you couldn't have predicted any of this,
and Christmas, of course, is a time for peace and goodwill,
and maybe thinking about "what ifs".
-But what will you be thinking about this Christmas?
My family - I'll be saying thank you for being so blessed
as to have such a wonderful wife and fantastic children
and to have a mum and a dad and a sister and others
who are great.
I'll also be reflecting on, um...you know,
the genuine blessings that I've had in life.
I had a chance to argue for things that I believed in
and I will also have the chance, I hope, in the future,
to be able to argue for other things in which I believe,
to make a contribution and, above all, I hope,
I can be a decent husband and a good dad.
Happy Christmas, Michael Gove. Thank you very much.
Not at all, Fern. Thank you.
Next week, I'm meeting Rebecca Ferguson -
former teenage mum from Liverpool, who won our hearts on The X Factor.
People read the papers about me and think,
"God, that girl's been through a lot."
# You're the prettiest thing my eyes have ever seen... #
Rebecca talks about fame, family and faith.
# Close down... #
I feel like people might criticise me,
cos I'm not your standard Christian.
-There is no perfect Christian. That's the thing.
-There isn't, no.
Fern Britton meets former Conservative Cabinet member Michael Gove, who played a prominent role in the Brexit campaign and then ran for the Tory party leadership, after withdrawing his support for former ally Boris Johnson. He talks about his career and his faith and the convictions that underpin his life.