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Transcript: Michael Gove’s barnstorming speech in no-confidence debate

17 January 2019

12:36 AM

17 January 2019

12:36 AM

In the no-confidence motion today, Michael Gove gave one of the best speeches of his parliamentary career, praising Labour moderates and launching an excoriating attack on Jeremy Corbyn. Here’s an edited transcript.

[This] has been a passionate debate characterised by many excellent speeches. Perhaps the bravest and the finest speech that came from the opposition benches was given by the member for Barrow-in-Furness. It takes courage – and he has it. Having been elected on a Labour mandate representing working class people to say that the leader of the party that you joined as a boy is not fit to be prime minister: he speaks for the country.

And that takes us to the speech from the Shadow Secretary of State [Tom Watson]. He spoke well. I felt he did not rise to the level of events. But one thing that was characteristic about his speech: he did not once mention in his speech the Leader of the Opposition. Or why he should be Prime Minister.

Now, I have a lot of time for the honourable member. We have several things in common. We both lost weight recently – I should say, him much more so. We’re both friends of Israel. Him much more so. And we both recognise that the Member for Islington North is about the worst possible person to lead the Labour Party.

As well as great speeches from the backbenches we also have some interesting speeches from the frontbenchers. We had a speech of over 20 minutes from my great friend the leader of the Scottish National Party in this place. But again in those 20 minutes he did not once mention the Common Fisheries Policy. I think everyone everyone in Scotland who recognises the potential to free ourselves from the Common Fisheries Policy which Brexit provides will note that in 20 minutes of precious parliamentary time the SNP didn’t mention them aren’t interested in them. And as far as the fishing people of Scotland are concerned the SNP have literally nothing to say

I now turn to the speech from the leader of the Liberal Democrats, someone for whom I also have affection and respect. He made a number of good points but he also said that he regretted the referendum. This from the party that was the first in this House to say that we should have a referendum on EU membership. Because he doesn’t like the result of the last referendum he now wants another referendum. The Liberal Democrat policy on referendums is not the policy of Gladstone or Lloyd George. It’s the policy of Vicky Pollard: no but yeah but no but yeah.

I should also commend the speech given by the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. He explained that he had been inundated with text messages today from people who were saying: please, please, please back the government tonight. Some of those text messages had even come from Conservatives.

But when we think about confidence in this country and in this government, there is a daily vote of confidence – executed by the individuals investing in this country, creating jobs and opportunity for all our citizens. Under this government, this country remains the most successful country for foreign direct investment of any country in Europe. With more than £1,300 billion being invested in the last year. That is why Forbes magazine says that this country is the best destination for new jobs in the world.

Once again, London has been recorded by independent inspectors as the best place in the world for tech investment. Boeing opened a new factory in Sheffield to create jobs for British workers. Chanel moved from France to London in order to establish a new corporate headquarters. When Starbucks moved from Amsterdam to London in order to to ensure more investment in jobs, the Opposition should wake up – and smell the coffee.

All of this all of this – in the words of the BBC – ‘despite Brexit’. Though that investment, those jobs that have been created under my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s inspirational leadership, As we heard, 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools. It is also the case that the gap between the poorest and the richest in our schools has narrowed under this Conservative government. We also have a record level of investment in the NHS: £394 million pounds extra every week for our NHS.

We also have investment in our national security. We meet the 2pc target for investment in Nato and we have two new aircraft carriers capable of projecting British force and influence across the world in defence of freedom and democracy. And in contrast, while we are standing up for national security, what about the right honourable gentleman the Member for Islington North? He wants to leave Nato. He wants to get rid of our nuclear deterrent. And recently in a speech he said: why do countries boast about the size of their armies? Why don’t we emulate Costa Rica that has no army at all?

No allies, no deterrent, no army – no way can this country ever allow that man to be our Prime Minister in charge of our security.

If he can’t support our fighting men and women, who does he support? Who does he stand beside? Well, it was fascinating to discover that that he was there when a wreath was laid to commemorate those who were involved in the massacre at the Munich Olympics of Israeli. Now, he says he was ‘present, but not involved’.

‘Present but not involved’ sums him up when it comes to national security. When this House voted to bomb the fascists of Isis after an inspirational speech by the Member for Leeds Central in which 66 people voted with this government in order to defeat fascism. I’m afraid that the honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was not with us. In fighting fascism, he was present but not involved.

And similarly, when this House voted to take the action necessary when Vladimir Putin executed an act of terrorism on our soil, there were many good Labour members who stood up to support what we were doing. But not the Rt Hon gentleman.

If the leader of the Opposition won’t stand up against Putin when he attacks people in this country, if he won’t stand up against fascists when they are running riot in Syria, if he will not stand up for this country when critical national security questions are being asked – then how could we possibly expect him to stand up for us at European negotiations?

Will he stand up for us against Spain over Gibraltar? Will he stand up against the Commission in order to ensure order to ensure that we get a good deal? Of course he won’t. Because he won’t even stand up for his own members of parliament.

Why is it that a Labour member of parliament needs armed protection at her own party conference? Why is it that nearly half of female Labour MPs wrote to the Leader of the Opposition to say that he was not standing up against the vilification and the abuse that they received online, carried out in his name? If he cannot protect his own members of parliament, if he cannot protect the proud traditions of the Labour Party, then how could he possibly protect this country?

We cannot have confidence in him to lead. We have confidence in this government – which is why I commend this motion to the House.


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