The story of Britain’s Michael Gove is a sad one. Clever, able and a genuinely original thinker, he was a successful Conservative education minister (until moved on by David Cameron for annoying the wrong—which is to say right—people) and, later, a highly promising justice minister. Then came the EU referendum (Gove was a leading Brexiteer) and a botched plot against Boris Johnson in the chaotic aftermath of its unexpected result. He was relegated to the back benches by incoming Prime Minister Theresa May.
But Gove is not the type to give up easily.
In December came the self-criticism.
BBC (from December):
Former cabinet minister Michael Gove says Theresa May was right to sack him after she became prime minister.
“If I’d been in her shoes, I would have sacked me too,” he told the BBC.
Mr Gove said he regretted standing for the Tory leadership, saying he made “mistakes” in the way he withdrew his support from Boris Johnson. He now had to take the consequences of his decision, including the fact that an act of treachery has become widely known as “doing a Gove”, he said.
[H]e hoped to “make a contribution” in the future.
In February Gove wrote a newspaper article arguing that Value Added Tax (typically levied at 20 percent in the UK) should be imposed on private school fees. This was dressed up as an attack on the ‘plutocrats and oligarchs’ who send their children to some of Britain’s more exclusive private schools, taxes that those wicked creatures could easily pay, but which would cause real pain to less wealthy parents trying to do their best for their children.
Gove is not a class warrior, but if taking the position he did might help win him some favor with May (no fan of Britain’s posher private schools), well, that, I suspect, was too much of a temptation to resist.
Then came Britain’s general election after which a weakened Theresa May brought Gove out of the cold and into the government as environment minister.
He has now made his first major speech in that new role. As would be expected from Gove, it contains some good material, but he also clearly aligns himself with the conventional wisdom of, for want of a better term, the climate establishment. There’s praise for the “Pulitzer-Prize Winning academic Jared Diamond” (whose Collapse is more contentious than Gove appears to know) and for nutty Lord Deben’s “excellent Committee on Climate Change” and, of course, there’s criticism of Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Paris Climate Accord despite the “current man-made crisis”:
It’s our planet too and America needs to know we can only resolve this problem together.
He reassures his audience that leaving the EU won’t mean any diminution of environmental standards.
[A]s the UK Climate Change Act shows, this country is more than capable of bringing in our own strong legislation to protect the environment, independent of the EU.
The Climate Change Act was a ruinously expensive exercise in virtue-signaling which will have next to no effect on the climate (full disclosure: I am a ’lukewarmer’ myself). As an act of legislative irresponsibility it takes some beating. It should be a source of shame, not pride.
Back to Gove:
Inside the EU, the European Commission and the ECJ [European Court of Justice] have provided enforcement mechanisms. Understandably, some are asking what could or should replace them. My view is that we have an opportunity, outside the EU, to design more effective, more rigorous and more responsive institutions and other means of holding individuals and organisations to account for environmental outcomes.
Translation: More regulation, not less. Yet another reminder that whatever form (hard, soft or whatever)of Brexit is adopted, it will not see a bonfire of controls.
Then we come to Gove’s final summation of his ‘Green Brexit’. You can already imagine how the clichés come tumbling out: Rivers, seas, planet, moral imperative, next generation, stewardship, global, champion, leader, advocate, national mission, and, of course, that phrase so beloved of priests, humbugs and Gutmenschen everywhere: “Social Justice”.
Well, Corbyn would be worse, so there’s that.