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Michael Gove and the Battle of the Somme Centenary

July 2, 2016


Yesterday, as Michael Gove was bidding to become Prime Minister, we were also supposed to be marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Gove of course has strong views of World War One, complaining that people have too gloomy a view of it, and that the horrors of trench warfare were totally worth it once you see the big picture.

One senses that in the kind of big picture attritional ideological war that Gove is invested in, the unspeakable sufferings of the western front do indeed look pretty small.  Gove meanwhile, has spearheaded a deceitful and hateful campaign that looks like destroying Britain as a nation as well as wrecking the chances of gainful employment and reasonable living standards of a hefty percentage of the people trapped in the bits and pieces of the country he helped to wreck.

But he seems clear that it was all totally worth it in the name of a bigger picture.

Whereas nobody in the world thinks Boris Johnson wanted to “win” the EU exit referendum, it is clear that Michael Gove is an “actual” Leaver.

So Gove knifed Johnson.  Who cares?  I suppose historians of Britain will be interested in the nuances of the peculiar strains of hideousness that informed that zombie nation in its death throes (or is that undead throes?).  The precise sequencing, the subtle choreography whereby mendacious opportunities decided to knife one another is of little real interest.

Gove is no less of a liar than Boris Johnson – just a different kind of liar. For Johnson, the gratification of Boris Johnson’s ego is the only truth and mere “facts” have to arrange themselves (and then rearrange themselves) around that ego.  Gove, on the other hand, seems to actually believe in some abstract truths – and lies told to service these abstractions are vindicated as part of a higher truth.

Gove, a man who will sacrifice real practical benefits on an altar devoted to an abstract principle, has declared himself an admirer of Edmund Burke.   Gove, the least Burkeian politician imaginable – needs to be slapped and forced to actually read the works of Edmund Burke (thank you Bharat Tandon for reminding me of this).

His speech yesterday was an impenitent recapitulation of promises that seem as vapid as they are incredible.  He clearly believes that Leaving was “right” in some fundamental sense, but his agenda (beyond deferring to the higher wisdom of Rupert Murdoch and Lord Dacre – whose belief that they have a right to dictate to Britain exceeds that of any eurocrat) remains unclear.

He’s not apologising for the lies told by the Leave campaign, because he does not believe that truth is something that the British  people either desire or deserve.  He’s not been lying merely to advance his own career, but rather something he has yet to articulate – if he ever does.

Leaving the EU in favour of a concept of “Sovereignty” that will break up the UK and reduce many people in the bits left over to poverty is cognate with yesterday’s anniversary.  Gove may well be the Earl Haig of twenty-first century politics.  Ignore the casualties.  Advance on all fronts.


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One Comment
  1. NMac permalink

    Perhaps the little man Gove should have seen my Grandfather’s jaw which was almost totally shot away at Ypres. That would help him see the “big picture”.

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