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23 May 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:22pm

Will playing the Brexit blame game boost Gove’s chances at taking the Tory leadership?

A leaked cabinet letter paints the Environment Secretary in a very positive light. Presumably because he wrote it.

By Stephen Bush

Who’s to blame for the government’s 15th Brexit defeat in the House of Lords? According to Michael Gove, it’s all Philip Hammond’s fault.

The Telegraph’s Steve Swinford has got hold of a leaked letter from Gove to the cabinet, in which he outlines how the Treasury’s insistence on watering down the environmental protections he and his department wanted spooked the Lords and ignored Defra’s advice.

Gove is right to say that the government’s decision to push forward with weaker environmental protections after Brexit against his and Defra’s advice meant the measure was dead on arrival in the Lords, but that the leaked letter reflects so well on him means that, inevitably, pretty much everyone assumes he was the source of the leak.

Gove has had two successes at Defra: the first in being one of only two ministers to have actually done anything of note since the loss of the Conservative parliamentary majority. But the second, and equally important from a Conservative party perspective, is that he has, thus far, avoided any prolonged fights with other departments, a recurring feature of his tenure at the Department for Education (which of course contributed to his demotion by David Cameron and his sacking by Theresa May).

One reason why Gove’s chances of reaching the leadership or getting a big job after May leaves the scene are not as good as his record at Defra ought to make them is that he is not as popular among Conservative MPs as he is in the Conservative press. If this letter is a sign of things to come, his May-era renaissance could prove to be just as fleeting as his May-era sacking.

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