Michael Gove: I would vote to leave the EU

The education secretary has reportedly told friends that the UK has to be ready to threaten to leave the EU.

The Mail on Sunday has splashed today on the revelation that Michael Gove has apparently told friends that if a referendum were to be held, he would vote to take the UK out of the EU:

It's a bold headline, but inside the story is a bit softer - Gove has apparently told "close allies" that Britain needs to be ready to threaten to leave the EU altogether if it is going to renegotiate our relationship successfully.

Simon Walters says this intervention by the education secretary is part of an "anti-EU pincer movement" by Gove and Cameron. The latter is due to announce a pull-back from some EU justice measures later this mornth, Walters says.

On the face of it, "Tory cabinet minister doesn't like the EU" is hardly an earth-shaking revelation.

What's interesting, though, is that Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome says:

My estimation is that at least eight Tory Cabinet ministers would privately sign up to exactly that view.

If Montgomerie is right (and he often is about such things) and Gove is just one of a number of senior Tories having these thoughts, this story takes on a whole new dimension. Parliament returns tomorrow, so the next month or so will be an interesting one for the future of the UK's relationship with the EU.

Will the Lib Dems have anything to say about this?

Michael Gove during this year's Conservative Party conference. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.