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A week in politics really is a long, long time. At the start of this week, Nusrat Ghani was demanding an emergency debate in Parliament over Clive Lewis’s use of the phrase “Get on your knees, bitch”. Here at the end, Michael Gove has made a comment that is arguably far worse and neither she nor any other Conservative has anything to say.

Mr Gove is a Cabinet minister – the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It is not appropriate for him to make such a comment, and an apology after the event –

– is not enough.

The fact that he spoke those words means he thought it was acceptable to do so – belittling the experience of every woman who has ever fallen foul of Mr Weinstein’s unwanted attentions.

Worse still, this attitude to rape seems to be a family trait as Mr Gove’s wife, Sarah Vine, has also made a comment that is staggering in its insensitivity:

Has she apologised?

Fortunately for our national character, plenty of people have come forward to criticise Mr Gove’s appalling remark, even if the government won’t. Let’s start with the only question worth asking:

At the very least, as mentioned above, Nusrat Ghani should have something to say:

But the silence has been deafening.

Appraisals of Mr Gove’s own character are fair comment after his own words:

There has been criticism of Radio 4 for allowing it and failing to apologise afterwards:

And there is speculation on the thinking behind it:

Yes he did.

And he has put Theresa May in an untenable position. She has a very small pool of talent (if you can call it that) from which to draw her Cabinet ministers, and Mr Gove – like Boris Johnson – is most likely only a member because he can command the support of a significant number of Conservative backbenchers.

If she sacks him, then he’ll take that support away with him and Mrs May’s position as prime minister will be weakened – it would only take a moment of spite for Mr Gove to undermine her on a crucial issue, possibly triggering the end of her government.

But if she doesn’t, then she is tacitly supporting his words and betraying rape victims – not just those who have made allegations against Mr Weinstein, but everywhere. That could be just as damaging for her.

As for Mr Gove himself, the future of his career is looking rocky, because we now have the perfect answer to every policy announcement, every speech and every opinion he puts forward:

“Nobody cares what you say any more, Mr Gove. You think rape is funny.”

*This is an oxymoron, of course. Let us all be clear that here is nothing remotely funny about rape (unless you are a Conservative Cabinet minister, it seems).


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