Michael Gove leaves a television studio in Westminster yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

If Gove is the most unpopular politician, why have the Tories made him minister for TV?

The man charged with wooing voters is more likely to repel them. 

If further evidence was needed of why Michael Gove was moved from Education, today's Ipsos MORI poll provides it. It shows that he is the least popular senior politician in the country, with a net likeability rating of -32, compared to -24 for George Osborne, -22 for Ed Miliband, -16 for Nigel Farage, -11 for Nick Clegg, -6 for David Cameron, +5 for Theresa May and +35 for Boris Johnson. As I write in my column in tomorrow's New Statesman, it was subterranean ratings like this that meant the coalition's Robespierre couldn't survive Cameron's Great Terror. 

Had Gove merely been made Chief Whip, a traditionally private role, the move would have been an entirely logical one. But as Cameron said yesterday, the former Education Secretary will also have "an enhanced role in campaigning and doing broadcast media interviews".

There are some in Westminster who are suggesting that this was merely spin designed to dispel the (accurate) impression that he had been demoted. But in his column in today's Evening Standard (which carries the MORI poll), Matthew d'Ancona, the chronicler of the Cameroons, writes that Gove will be "Chief Whip to the nation: the gentle persuader and kindly polemicist who will explain why we should all vote Tory." 

No one doubts Gove's rhetorical and intellectual firepower, but the question remains why the man chosen to detoxify the Conservative brand is one who so badly needs to detoxify his own. In previous election campaigns, unpopular or gaffe-prone Tory politicians have been wisely hidden from the view. Based on his ratings, some will ask why Gove isn't receiving the same treatment. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Show Hide image

It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.