Michael Gove used a familiar secret code phrase this morning when discussing Boris Johnson, in a subtle dig at his former boss.
Mr Gove was asked to predict whether Boris Johnson will return to politics, self-deprecatingly joking that as a man who once wrote a book entitled ‘Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right’, he isn’t a “particularly gifted clairvoyant”.
“Boris has taken a decision to leave the House of Commons, he’s now writing for the Daily Mail and making arguments on a variety of other issues.
“I wish him well in that endeavour.”
While this seemingly innocuous phrase may have persuaded Sky viewers to think he was being sincere, Mr Gove referenced a private in-joke from his days on the Vote Leave referendum campaign, used as a euphemism to mean the exact opposite.
He phrase was regularly used by members of Vote Leave during the referendum as a slight on their enemies.
When their rival group, Leave.EU, tried fighting them for the official campaign designation, Arron Banks accused Mr Cummings and his team of “jeopardising this historic referendum”.
A spokesman for Vote Leave replied: “We wish them well.”
When Richard Murphy, a Ground Campaign Director of Vote Leave quit the campaign, a spokesperson said: “We wish him well.”
Vote Leave also used the phrase when the Tory MP who chaired the Commons treasury select committee announced he would back Remain in the referendum.
Mr Gove previously used the euphemism when it was reported in 2019 that Michael Gove’s team was using Rory Stewart as a “suicide bomber” to attack Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab in the leadership campaign, a Gove campaign source said: “We wish them well.”
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Dominic Cummings also delivered the line after quitting No 10 following a row with the PM’s then-fiancée Carrie Symonds.
Despite the slight on Mr Johnson, Michael Gove did criticise the Privileges Committee report and said he will not vote for it on Monday.
He told the BBC he disagrees with the report’s conclusion and that a 90-day suspension was “not merited”.
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His reference to the Vote Leave phrase of “wish them well” wasn’t the only in-joke made by Mr Gove this morning.
Asked whether he’s also used weight loss injections – as Boris Johnson revealed he had tried in his new Daily Mail column – Mr Gove said when it comes to weightless drugs, the most important thing is to “follow the advice of the experts”.
Mr Gove famously said the British people have had “enough of experts” during the Brexit referendum campaign.
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