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Anderson and Braverman shout loudest, but one man has led the toxification of the Tories: Michael Gove | Andy Beckett

Anderson and Braverman shout loudest, but one man has led the toxification of the Tories: Michael Gove | Andy Beckett

Anderson and Braverman shout loudest, but one man has led the toxification of the Tories: Michael Gove | Andy Beckett
Mar 02, 2024 1 min, 20 secs

It involves more mainstream, less abrasive conservative politicians – people generally regarded and presented by the media as reasonable – exploring and promoting hard-right ideas and turning them into policies, while insisting that nothing harsh or reckless is going on.

Theresa May’s weaponising of English nationalism, Boris Johnson’s constant launching of culture wars and David Cameron’s drastic shrinking of the state, continued under Rishi Sunak and likely to be taken even further at next week’s budget, are all examples of Tory premiers normalising stances once largely confined to the rightwing fringes.

This week, he was placed under investigation by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, shortly after this newspaper revealed that he had not registered VIP hospitality he had enjoyed at a football match with a Conservative donor, David Meller, whom a year earlier Gove had helped secure PPE contracts worth £164m.

As well as this ubiquity in shaping and carrying out policy, which has often been assisted by the dire quality of other Tory ministers, Gove has also helped give the governments since 2010 a particular tone: utterly tribal and sure of themselves, contemptuous of enemies, and almost always avoiding compromise in favour of doubling down.

The fact that Gove has attacked his targets – such as “ the blob ” of lefties that supposedly controls education, and “ experts ” who doubt Brexit – in a voice that is calm and elaborately courteous has effectively disguised the extremity of his positions.

While he likes to cite unexpected, non-Tory figures such as the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and President Franklin D Roosevelt, Gove remains strongly loyal to hierarchy, tradition and the free market.

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