Senior U.K. minister Michael Gove rejected claims Boris Johnson isn’t interested in Britain’s threatened union of nations, after a broadside from his former top adviser Dominic Cummings.
In comments made about the U.K. union to POLITICO last week, Cummings said his old boss is “not that interested in it — like everything only if media/immediate pressure.” Cummings has been openly critical of the prime minister and his administration since he left No. 10 last November.
Gove, minister for the Cabinet Office and one of Johnson’s key lieutenants in the fight against Scottish independence, dismissed Cummings’ claim when pressed at a media briefing on Monday.
“I don’t know why Dominic has that impression because it’s certainly not mine,” he said in response to a question from POLITICO.
And he added: “The prime minister, when he was appointed, made sure that he was recognized as minister for the Union. I don’t know why Dom drew that conclusion when the weight of evidence across every aspect of government is that the prime minister wants to ensure that every part of the United Kingdom emerges stronger from this pandemic, by working together effectively.”
Gove pointed to new Cabinet committees set up to strengthen coordination with the devolved nations; the government’s “leveling up” investment fund and the controversial Internal Market Act as examples of how Johnson believes in keeping the U.K. together.
Gove, who is currently on a visit in the north of Scotland, also defended spending emergency COVID funds on Union polling at the height of the pandemic.
The SNP have called for an inquiry after a court case found that Gove’s office had asked a marketing agency granted an emergency COVID research contract to conduct polling on the U.K.’s attitudes toward the Union. The contract was worth £560,000.
Gove said it was “right” to commission the work and told reporters that the contract “was assigned in order to ensure that the that the U.K. government was in a position to be able to make sure that vital messages like ‘hands, face, space’ and protecting the NHS were communicated effectively to the public.”
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