Work-shy Clegg? Get real

A play in one act.

Scene: A brightly lit atrium called Portcullis House, part of the Houses of Parliament. Plenty of people chatting, drinking coffee.

Enter stage left; two journalists from the Telegraph are talking to each other.

Journo 1: "Crikey, let's hold that front page. Something really important is happening in government."

Journo 2: "What is it? Is it radical and frightening changes to the NHS?

Journo 1: "Er . . . well . . . yes, that is happening this week, actually, but no, this is much more dramatic."

Journo 2: "Is it the ongoing battle in the House of Lords about changing the voting system and boundaries?"

Journo 1: "Well, yes, again . . . that is happening . . . and you're right again, this week, but no, it is something much more fundamental to the workings of government."

Journo 2: "I give up. What can be so important?"

Journo 1: "Apparently the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has asked all government departments to submit documents that are not urgent by 3pm for his red box. Which gives his office time to follow up with further requests for information."

Journo 2: "Is that really big news? Do other cabinet ministers do that?"

Journo 1: "Well, good question. Yes, other cabinet ministers do that, including the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who has an even earlier deadline."

Journo 2: "Shouldn't we write about her, too?"

Journo 1: "Don't be ridiculous, she's one of Tories in the cabinet: we need to big her up. This is a genius way to get Clegg and his team having to answer ludicrous, lowlife questions about process rather than the policies he is trying to promote. It also gives everyone an excuse to suggest that he is feeling overworked. Even though the memo is nothing to do with that and pretty standard."

Journo 2: "You are bloody brilliant. Those Barclay brothers are going to love you. When's the promotion?"

(According to Olly Grender, with apologies to Hugo Rifkind et al.)

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Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.