Revealed: Michael Gove’s sexist jibes, racist jokes and homophobic slurs

It’s said Murdoch wants Gove for PM.  Obviously not what everyone wants …..! – Owl

Michael Gove made crude sexual comments, joked about paedophilia within top levels of government, and used a racist slur in a series of remarks in his twenties, The Independent can reveal.

The Cabinet Office minister also described Prince Charles as a “dull, wet, drippy adulterer” in speeches at the Cambridge Union while he was a student at Oxford, and after his graduation while working as a journalist.

In apparent attempts at humour, Mr Gove referred to people living in countries colonised by the British as “fuzzy-wuzzies”, accused the late former Tory minister Sir Leon Brittan of being a paedophile, and made a string of sexual jokes at the expense of Conservative minister Lucy Frazer.

The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, who has been tipped for the position of either foreign secretary or home secretary in a potential reshuffle, also described Margaret Thatcher’s policies as a “new empire” where “the happy south stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner”, and said that gay people “thrive primarily upon short-term relations”.

Mr Gove made the comments – which were met at the time by cheers, stunned laughter, and shouts of “shame” – at three evening debates at the Cambridge Union in February 1993, December 1993 and during the winter of 1987, recordings of which came to light this week.

By 1993 Mr Gove had forged a career in television at the BBC, working on the politics programme On the Record, and had performed on Channel 4’s short-lived comedy programme A Stab in the Dark.

In February of that year, Mr Gove made a number of comments about the then European commissioner Sir Leon Brittan, speaking in favour of the motion “This house would rather have a degree from the university of life”.

Imagining an exchange between the two men, Mr Gove said: “[Leon] said: ‘Cambridge taught me an appreciation of music. And in particular an appreciation of the mature male soprano voice.’”

Mr Gove further imagined Sir Leon telling him that there was “no sound sweeter” than a young boy’s voice breaking, apart from the sound of the same boy involved in a sex act.

Sir Leon was a key cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and, before his death in 2015, was targeted by Scotland Yard in a VIP sexual abuse investigation triggered by the testimony of fantasist Carl Beech. The allegations against Sir Leon were found to be false, and Beech was sentenced to 18 years for perverting the course of justice and for fraud.

Mr Gove went on to joke about reporting Sir Leon to “special branch”, saying that he “now satisfies his desires in the Bois de Boulogne and various other Brussels hangouts.”

In December of 1993 he made a speech in support of the motion “This house prefers a woman on top”.

Mr Gove boasted that current justice minister Lucy Frazer, who had invited him to speak at the time, was “actually capable of tempting me into bed with her”, and implied that one college’s entire rugby club had had group sex with her.

He then referred to her “preference for peach-flavoured condoms” and said she had done “remarkably well” to come from “the back streets of the slums of Leeds”.

The Independent understands that Michael Gove and Lucy Frazer were not romantically involved, and that his descriptions were purely fictitious.

In 1987, when Mr Gove was in his final year at Oxford University and serving as president-elect of its debating society, he spoke in favour of the motion “This house believes that the British empire was lost on the playing fields of Eton” as part of an intervarsity debating competition at the Cambridge Union.

In making his case, he used a racial slur, saying: “It may be moral to keep an empire because the fuzzy-wuzzies can’t look after themselves.

“It may be immoral to keep an empire because the people of the third world have an inalienable right to self-determination, but that doesn’t matter whether it’s moral or immoral.”

Referring to the practice of British rule, Gove said that “Eton took the cream of the colonial system, it took fettered foreigners and it turned them into gentlemen.”

“Fettered” is a term that is used to describe people, often slaves, who have been restrained with chains or manacles, typically around the ankles.

He later went on to describe the economist John Maynard Keynes as a “homosexualist”, adding: “Many of us are familiar with the fact that homosexuals thrive primarily on short-term relations.”

The speech also included Mr Gove’s opinions of Margaret Thatcher’s policies, which he described as “rigorously, vigorously, virulently, virilely, heterosexual”.

He continued: “We are at last experiencing a new empire: an empire where the happy south stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner.

“At last Mrs Thatcher is saying I don’t give a fig for what half of the population say because the richer half will keep me in power. This may be amoral, this may be immoral, but it’s politics and it’s pragmatism.”

Mr Gove, who became an MP in 2005, also said that the Prince of Wales was an example of how university education makes people boring. He referred to him as “a dull, wet, drippy adulterer whose romantic conversation is dominated by lavatorial detail”.

Another jibe was made at the expense of the then president of the union, with Mr Gove saying: “Putting you in charge of the Cambridge Union was rather like putting Slobodan Milosevic in Serbian high command in charge of a rape crisis centre.”

More recently, in 2017, when appearing on the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Gove joked that being interviewed by the presenter John Humphrys was like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom – “You just pray that you emerge with your dignity intact.” Mr Gove later apologised, saying it had been a “clumsy attempt at humour”.

The Liberal Democrats have called for Boris Johnson to consider whether Mr Gove should remain in the cabinet in light of the comments.

Wendy Chamberlain MP, Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: “Michael Gove should be ashamed that he ever thought these things, let alone said them. These inappropriate and racist remarks are not befitting of a government minister, not befitting of a journalist, in fact not befitting of anyone.

“The prime minister should consider whether this is the type of person that deserves to be sat around the cabinet table. However, given Boris Johnson’s own history of disgraceful remarks, I expect this will be another shameful issue he lets go unchallenged.”

Mr Gove and Ms Frazer declined to comment.

BMA to issue damning critique of government over Covid crisis

Chronic neglect of the NHS, poor pandemic preparedness and flawed government policies have contributed to the appalling impact of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK, according to a damning assessment from the British Medical Association.

Ian Sample 

More than 130,000 people in the UK have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began, with non-Covid excess deaths up 12,000 last year, making the country one of the hardest hit among comparable nations, the doctors’ body said.

In a speech on Monday, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s chair of council, will warn that the country and NHS staff have never faced such a crisis before and urge ministers to take action to ensure the health service is better prepared to respond to pandemics in the future.

“We will not accept a return to the old pre-pandemic NHS, which was so patently understaffed and under-resourced, where nine in 10 doctors are afraid of medical errors daily,” he is expected to say. “We will not accept an NHS running at unsafe bed occupancy and without spare capacity.”

Before the pandemic, NHS bed occupancy was regularly above the 85% considered a reasonable safe threshold. While the NHS had 7.3 critical care beds per 100,000 people, Germany had nearly 34 per 100,000 as the crisis unfolded.

Further planning failures left the NHS with inadequate stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff, leading to last-minute orders of masks, visors and gowns that in some cases turned out to be unsafe or unusable.

Years of underfunding, inadequate facilities and nearly 90,000 staff vacancies meant the NHS was in crisis before coronavirus emerged, leaving it ill-prepared for the demands of the pandemic, Nagpaul is to argue at the BMA’s annual representative meeting.

He will criticise ministers for dismissing calls for a rapid inquiry into the crisis, before the second wave of infections struck last year, meaning that crucial lessons from the previous six months were not learned. He will add that the ministerial mantra of “living with Covid” belies the reality that thousands of people continue to need hospital care for coronavirus with hundreds dying each week.

Despite warnings from senior doctors at the time, Boris Johnson’s decision to lift coronavirus restrictions this summer contributed to almost 40,000 being admitted to hospital and more than 4,000 deaths since so-called “freedom day” on 19 July, the BMA said.

“We will not accept an NHS in crisis every summer, let alone every winter,” Nagpaul will add. “We will not accept a nation bereft of public health staff, facilities and testing capacity, with ministers then paying billions to private companies who were unable to deliver.”

In the past week, ministers announced substantial extra funding for the NHS, including money specifically targeted at easing backlogs in treatment. While welcoming the funds as an important first step, Nagpaul will urge the government to provide realistic projections as to how far the money will stretch and to acknowledge that the amount will not address the drastic shortage of NHS staff. The BMA estimates that the NHS has 50,000 fewer doctors than the EU average.

More than 4 million people were on the NHS waiting list in England in March 2020, the month the country went into its first Covid lockdown. That number has since risen to 5.61 million. The Nuffield Trust has said waiting lists could top 15 million people in four years without a significant increase in NHS trust capacity.

Last week, GPs in England said they were finding it “increasingly hard to guarantee safe care” for patients, as the shortage of doctors meant they could not keep up with the surge in demand. Prof Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), warned of a crisis in primary care after a 4.5% decrease in the number of GPs across England led to a risk of mistakes being made.

Government failing to stop sewage discharge into English rivers, says charity

One of the first complaints lodged with the post-Brexit environmental watchdog accuses the government and Ofwat of failing to enforce the law to stop water companies from routinely discharging raw sewage into rivers.

Sandra Laville 

The office for environmental protection (OEP) is being asked to investigate why water companies have been able to continually fail to meet duties placed on them by law to treat sewage. The secretary of state for the environment, George Eustice, and the financial regulator, Ofwat, had failed to enforce the law, the complaint said.

Lawyers for Salmon and Trout Conservation lodged the complaint with the OEP, whose role is to act as an independent to hold the government and public bodies to their commitments and environmental law.

The complaint says water companies have for 30 years had a legal duty – enforceable by the secretary of state and Ofwat – to “effectually drain sewers” and “effectually deal with sewage”.

But the charity said that despite the legal framework, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers and coastal waters in England more than 400,000 times in 2020, according to Environment Agency data. The spills via combined sewer overflows lasted for 3.1m hours. Yet the overflows are supposed to be used only in extreme weather to relieve pressure in the sewage system.

“By common understanding, the water companies have failed, and continue to fail to meet the duties placed on them by the 1991 (Water Industry) Act and that duty, patently, remains dramatically unenforced by the secretary of state and Ofwat,” the complaint reads.

The environment bill going through the House of Lords places a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows.

In its complaint, Salmon and Trout Conservation said the government could be using the law to force water companies to cut sewage discharges.

The secretary of state can just tell Ofwat and issue directions to the Environment Agency now to ensure the water companies just comply with existing law,” said Guy Linley-Adams, a solicitor for S&T Conservation.

“In practical effect, the law already says that untreated sewage shouldn’t be discharged into rivers except during very heavy rainfall, and then only to avoid sewers flooding. At all other times, sewage must be fully treated before anything is discharged – and that discharge must not cause pollution.

“The law is clear and has been since 1991. What is missing is the strength of will within government to get this sorted”.

The complaint says the current situation where sewerage infrastructure, by the government’s own admission, has not kept pace with population growth, has been allowed to develop since 1991 because the financial oversight provided by Ofwat has neither sufficiently required, nor sufficiently enabled, the water companies to ensure their infrastructure keeps pace with population growth and meets the requirements of the Water Industry Act.

Data released by the Environment Agency in 2020 shows that sewage and wastewater discharges by water companies into rivers account for damage to 36% of water bodies. Only 14% of English rivers are of good ecological standard, a rating that suggests they are as close to their natural state as possible.

“In the absence of sufficient sewage treatment infrastructure and capacity, rivers have been asked to do that ‘treating’ instead, which has harmed many English rivers,” the complaint said.

Appeal to make South Hams sustainable

A former parish councillor from Staverton in Devon is urging politicians at all levels to take more urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. 

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Simon Oldridge, who co-founded Sustainable South Hams and Sustainable Staverton, says more than 32 parishes in the South Hams area are already involved in his campaign, but local authorities and central government are failing to act on “compelling” scientific data which proves the threat of climate change. 

In 2019 the government amended the Climate Change Act to commit the UK to achieving net zero carbon by 2050.

But Mr Oldridge claims authorities like South Hams District Council need to be more proactive if they are to achieve those targets.  

“We actually wrote them a letter urging them to do something about the planning laws, locally, that allow house builders to continue to build houses that just aren’t fit for the future net-zero economy that we’re going to live in,” he said.

“They’re still building houses with gas boilers. And those gas boilers are going to have to be taken out before the end of their lives.”

He explained that such changes would be very costly because it would also involve replacing radiators throughout an entire property. 

“That’s really disruptive for people. But that’s being hidden and they’re just bashing these cheap houses out,” he said.

“South Hams should be using the planning laws to stop that. Although I would say it should come from the government, but South Hams I think could probably do better.” 

South Hams declared a climate change and biodiversity emergency in 2019 and has committed to reducing its organisational carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030.

South Hams has also committed to working with partners through the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group to aim to reduce the district’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 at the latest.

But it’s not just local authorities who are failing to act on climate change, according to Mr Oldridge. He also points the finger at some politicians, saying some take the issue more seriously than others. 

He said Sir Gary Streeter MP (Conservative, South West Devon) does not appear to have grasped the importance of the issue. “He’s still writing very misleading comments about how the UK is halfway to net zero,” said Mr Oldridge.

“He says the environment bill will solve everything. 

“The environment bill has got nothing to do with climate change at all.  If you do a word search on it, it doesn’t have the words ‘carbon’, ‘CO2’, ‘aviation’, ‘peat’, ‘marsh’ or ‘diet’. On anything to do with climate – it’s not there. 

“It’s an important bill. It’s needed as we leave the EU for tidying up lots of loose ends. But it’s nothing to do with tackling climate change or protecting nature on a wider scale. 

“It mentions ‘forest’ once and that’s in relation to commercial logging.”

Sir Gary gave a short but vehement rejection of Mr Oldridge’s comments “None of those quotes attributed to me are in any way accurate,” he said.  

South Hams plans measures to improve biodiversity and tackle climate change including recently consulting on whether more than 13 hectares of land should be used for ‘rewilding’. 

The council also aims to reduce its own carbon emissions, working with partners, including the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, Plymouth City Council and West Devon Borough Council, and to increase biodiversity by 10 per cent in its green and wooded public habitats by 2025.

But Mr Oldridge said, although he welcomes many of the measures, he is concerned that politicians often claim they are doing enough.  

“The evidence now is so clear and so compelling that I don’t think that excuse is going to stand for very long for politicians who fail to act,” he said.