Faced with questions over what she knew when about the extraordinary release of her letter attacking Michael Gove, Theresa May has decided to stonewall. In the course of an hour in the Commons, she said that she did not authorise the publication of the letter (as the PM’s spokesman revealed this morning) but refused to say whether she knew it would be released at some point (i.e. that it was written to be leaked) and failed to explain why it took three days for it to be removed from the Home Office website.
The longer the session went on, the more rattled May appeared. Asked by Labour’s Nic Dakin whether she knew her special adviser Fiona Cunningham (who was forced to resign over the incident) was going to publish the letter, she replied that it was “a bit rich getting so many questions about special advisers from the party of Damian McBride”, a partisan attack that only highlighted her evasiveness.
May has clearly calculated that nothing will emerge to suggest that she knew about the letter’s release (which could leave her in breach of the ministerial code), but in doing so she is gambling with her future.