What is Michael Gove up to? The Environment Secretary seems to be on a tree-hugging rampage at the moment, announcing a new green measure every week. Not content with unveiling the Tories’ 25 year environment plan last week, Gove has given an interview to today’s Sunday Times in which he attacks the water companies for using tax havens.
The water companies are interesting enough, given Jeremy Corbyn has called for them to be renationalised. But what’s really revealing about what Gove’s overall mission is comes later in the interview, when he says:
‘Brexit creates opportunities, particularly in my area. Brexit could be the catalyst for some of the biggest, boldest environmental steps forward as we transform our fisheries and agriculture policy. It’s particularly exciting to be in this role because as power comes back to the UK, we can do more.’
Gove has been allowed to catch attention and be proactive in a way that his predecessor in the department, Andrea Leadsom, was not. He wants to scotch the belief in the environmental sector that Brexit means a sweeping away of all the protections provided by the EU, with nothing to replace them.
He first tried this technique of surprising campaign groups with a generous and mollifying manner when in the Ministry of Justice. His environmental crusade is that same approach but on steroids because it has the backing of the Conservative party machinery, after it became clear that to attract younger voters, the Tories needed to give the impression they gave a fig about the environment. So it’s not just selling Brexit as something that could make the UK a better place, but selling the Tories as more palatable than their 2017 election image suggested.