Last night, Michael Gove apologised for what he saw as ‘errors and mistakes’, he acknowledged that a £500 hotel bill ‘was excessive’ and a ‘misjudgement’. There will be some who say he is exonerated, he has apologised, he is ‘one of the good guys’.
I believe that there is a far more crucial charge to be leveled against him than a few ‘errors and mistakes’ at the taxpayer’s expense. He is guilty of a betrayal of the trust placed in him as the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, a role for which he is paid by the taxpayer.
We look to our MPs to speak for us, to have a voice where we have none. That is their primary duty, and should be their first consideration. Other occupations, in Michael Gove’s case, that of journalist and on-line pundit, should take a back seat.
We have (perhaps had) in this country, a child who has become a metaphor for every vulnerable child, a child who encapsulates everything that a spokesman for children should have at the forefront of their mind. A child that the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families should indubitably, incontrovertibly, irredeemably, be championing the vulnerability of and supporting the cause of.
That child is Madeleine McCann.
Those of us who have followed the case of Madeleine McCann on a European level, have become used to the discrepancy between the version of events peddled in the UK media, and the undisputed facts available from the Portuguese Authorities. We understand the difficulties faced by journalists under the UK’s draconian libel laws, we understand too that economic considerations play a part in the coverage of the McCann case.
Michael Gove is first and foremost a parliamentarian, with the absolute privilege of speech that permits. It is a gross betrayal of that trust that he seeks to swim with the common herd of journalists, and sanctify the behaviour of the McCann parents. It is a gross betrayal of trust that he fills his column inches – and thus his pockets – with hand wringing anguish on behalf of the parents, and fails to speak up for the child.
Why had I chosen to support this cause, at this time, in this way? A huge part of it is simple identification with the McCanns. Madeleine’s fourth birthday fell in the same week as my daughter’s. Her father’s background has similarities with my own. The photographs of Madeleine look uncannily like our own little girl. […] Trying to imagine what the McCann family must be facing is at once, totally, instantly, possible and terrifyingly, unfathomably, distant. I have found it almost impossible to read, or watch, any of the news coverage because once my mind starts to reflect on what the family are facing the enormity of it all is too much to take.
He seeks to reinforce the innocence of the parents with the authority of the church:
John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, reminded us that Kate and Gerry McCann weren’t just probably innocent. They are totally innocent. And they will be until the situation ever arises that they have been tried, and found guilty, in a forum better designed to arrive at the truth than the media. One thing is certain: they have lost a daughter and their daily suffering must be torture.
When he should be standing up in parliament and speaking for Madeleine by saying these words that no UK journalist dare utter:
The last people to see her alive were her parents who left her and her siblings unattended in an unsecured apartment.
Her parents refused to answer the questions put to them by the Portuguese Police. Her parents and their colleagues declined to return to Portugal for a reconstruction of the crime arranged by the Portuguese Police.
Her parents declined to request that the Portuguese Police continue the investigation.
Until such time as her parents remedy these failures, there should be no more hand wringing articles in the UK press sympathising with their ‘pain’. There should be no more maudlin ‘mockumentaries’ seeking to answer the case for the defence of the parents via the air waves.
That is what a parliamentarian is for, Mr Gove, and you are betraying the trust we all place in you, you are particularly betraying the trust of a vulnerable child. Now go and do your job.
Let me remind you of your own words:
In a landscape shaped by moral relativism, in which it is impossible for authority to make judgments lest it be thought pious, hypocritical or harsh, we provide no consistent standard by which we expect people to live […] But what future are we building for the next generation when there are so many parents now, whatever their age, who never really grow up?
Michael Gove has an e-mail address: GOVEM@parliament.uk
H e works for you. You pay him.