The mother who grew Michael Gove in her heart

It’s the book that everyone is talking about — and you can read it exclusively in the Mail. On Saturday, in our first extract from a bombshell new biography, we revealed how Michael Gove had admitted taking cocaine. 

Today, as the fall-out sets the race to be Tory leader ablaze, we tell a very different side to his story: the heartwarming tale of how he rose from the very humblest of origins.

Life for Michael Gove did not necessarily begin on the day he was born. Indeed, on the day he was born, he was not Michael Gove at all — he was Graeme Logan.

On August 26, 1967, Graeme was born to an unmarried woman from Edinburgh.

Michael Gove aged seven months with adoptive mother Christine-  born Christine Bruce on July 24, 1939

Michael Gove aged seven months with adoptive mother Christine-  born Christine Bruce on July 24, 1939

Michael Gove aged seven months with adoptive mother Christine-  born Christine Bruce on July 24, 1939

Until 2019, Gove believed his birth mother was a student who gave birth to him in Scotland’s capital city, but it can now be revealed that story is not accurate.

Baby Graeme was not born in Edinburgh, but in a maternity hospital in Fonthill Road, Aberdeen. His mother was indeed from Edinburgh (and later moved back there), but was an unmarried 23-year-old cookery demonstrator at the time of his birth, not a student.

Baby Graeme’s maternal grandfather was the son of a labourer. His maternal grandmother worked in a food factory. Baby Graeme would never know this part of his family, as he was put into care soon after he was born.

Living 127 miles north of Edinburgh were the couple who would become Graeme’s adoptive parents: Ernest and Christine Gove. The Goves had been married since September 19, 1959, when Ernest was a 22-year-old working in the family fish business and Christine, barely out of her teenage years, was a despatch clerk.

The pair were of solid Aberdonian stock, with their families’ roots in the Granite City going back generations.

Gove was born on August 26, 1967, to an unmarried woman from Edinburgh. Pictured: Gove with his parents Christine and Ernest at their house in Aberdeen ahead of the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in the City

Gove was born on August 26, 1967, to an unmarried woman from Edinburgh. Pictured: Gove with his parents Christine and Ernest at their house in Aberdeen ahead of the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in the City

Gove was born on August 26, 1967, to an unmarried woman from Edinburgh. Pictured: Gove with his parents Christine and Ernest at their house in Aberdeen ahead of the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in the City

Ernest knew all about the importance of his name, as his father also shared the moniker. 

Ernest Snr was born on November 13, 1915 in Aberdeen. Whereas his father, Andrew, was a fish-market porter, Ernest Snr moved from worker to boss by establishing his own fish processing company. 

Based in Aberdeen harbour, E.E. Gove and Sons would take the fish caught in the North Sea — primarily cod and whiting — gut the catch and smoke them before selling them on.

Boy dubbed ‘Raffles’ and ‘Colonel Fogey’

When Gove left Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen to go down to Oxford, the school magazine marked the departure of a their high-achieving student in a manner befitting his trademark love of words and distinctive dress sense.

Next to a cartoon of a smiling Gove, complete with spotted bow tie (pictured), the following passage appears: ‘Orange’s eventual entrance into Oxfam University has finally confirmed his place above mere mortals. 

‘All that now remains of his shady past is the nickname Raffles. He now earns his money by tutoring [his teacher] Mr Duncan in English.

‘Naked without his tweeds, it is Colonel Fogey’s ambition to be a listed building when he grows up’.

Michael’s adoptive mother was born Christine Bruce on July 24, 1939. Christine’s paternal grandfather, Robert Bruce, was also a labourer, while her maternal grandfather, John Melvin, was a stonemason.

Both of Gove’s adoptive parents left school at 15. Fishing, labouring, masonry. It was these jobs that had nurtured the oak trunks of the Gove and Bruce family trees. 

With the two families now linked, it seemed that no more branches would develop, as Christine and Ernest Jr were unable to have children.

But the pair chose to adopt. And so it was that on December 22, 1967, Christine received a phone call that was to change not just the life of a little boy in care in Edinburgh but the entire direction of the Gove family tree.

The Goves travelled down to collect their new son, and the baby that had arrived into the world as Graeme Andrew Logan was now named Michael Andrew Gove.

There was a lot of him to love. Young Michael was a podgy infant. Early photos show him looking like a latter-day Les Dawson.

‘He was just so cuddly, so chubby,’ Christine remembers.

Four years later, the Gove family grew by one when the couple adopted Michael’s sister, Angela. 

Pictured: Michael Gove with mother Chritine, father Ernest and sister Angela at their home in Scotland

Pictured: Michael Gove with mother Chritine, father Ernest and sister Angela at their home in Scotland

Pictured: Michael Gove with mother Chritine, father Ernest and sister Angela at their home in Scotland

But within weeks the Goves faced a fresh hurdle: Angela was profoundly deaf, with total hearing loss in one ear and only three per cent hearing in the other. 

It was a challenge that Ernest and Christine approached with ‘calmness, kindness and love’, Michael wrote later.

In preparation for his new sister’s arrival, Christine had explained to Michael the truth about his own origins. With words he would never forget, she said: ‘You’re different from other children because we chose you. You didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it.’

Writing about that memorable conversation in 1998, Gove said: ‘When, and how, an adoptive mother chooses to tell their child about the past is one of the most delicate tasks she faces. 

‘My mother did so in such a way as to make me feel not rejected, but exceptional. I had been specially chosen by her and my father — a genuine love child.’

He added, ‘What son could not feel better equipped for life knowing how much he had been wanted by his parents?’

Gove has always been open about his background. He once claimed he had ‘lived a lie all my life’ by being known as Michael and not Graeme. 

But the underlying sentiment as Gove made the transition from journalist to politician always conveyed the sense of gratitude he feels towards his parents.

There are two questions that Gove returns to again and again: who are his birth parents and does he want to find them?

These are matters Gove has clearly grappled with. ‘I have never . . . attempted to satisfy my curiosity on the mystery at the heart of my own story,’ he wrote in 1998.

His justification was simple: ‘I have never tried for fear of offending the woman I have always called Mum, the woman in whose heart I grew.’

Not that his adopted mother Christine had ever asked him not to, as he explained in 2010.

‘My mother has always said if I want to [trace her] I should. She is equally clear there is no need for me to tell her if I do. 

‘I know, though, that she would take it as an indication that I did not feel my life or upbringing was fulfilled. It was. My mum and dad are fantastic.’ 

Gove put it even more starkly in another interview in 2010: ‘It’s almost like saying to my wife that I needed to go out to dinner from time to time with another, single woman, just to be able to talk through my problems with her.’

Even so, Gove revealed in 1998 that Christine had kept his birth mother ‘in touch with my progress through life’. 

So with his adoptive mother vowing that she and his father wouldn’t stop him looking for his birth mother, and his birth mother aware of how his life was progressing, perhaps there is another reason for Gove’s refusal to seek out the woman who had given him up when he was a baby.

There was no way of knowing what her reaction would be to hearing from the child she had put up for adoption. 

It was possible she did not want to be contacted — and could have rejected such an approach. 

In 1998, when adoption law reforms to enable birth mothers to trace the children they had given up were put forward, Gove wrote an article suggesting he would not wish his own birth mother to contact him.

Gambler whose big bets paid off

 Last December, while the votes on whether Theresa May had the confidence of Tory MPs were being counted, Gove went to the Christmas drinks party of an old friend: Rupert Murdoch.

The media mogul was hosting showbiz stars and senior politicians in his flat in the St James area of London. 

Just after 9pm, Gove sat next to Murdoch on a sofa to watch the ballot result announced on TV by Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman.

Not wanting to let the Environment Secretary siphon off all the attention from one of the most powerful men in the media, Health Secretary Matt Hancock awkwardly perched behind the pair.

May had survived, winning by 200 votes to 117. Gove was relieved. In the maelstrom of the PM’s failing Brexit plan, she had been desperate to keep him on board, and in a bold move had offered him the role of Brexit Secretary.

Gove made an even bolder move and turned it down.

He had told May that he would accept the role only if she allowed him to go back to Europe and demand negotiations were reopened on the Withdrawal Agreement.

She refused — and now he agonised over whether to resign from her Cabinet.

Aside from enjoying his work as Environment Secretary, there was another factor in his eventual decision to remain: having helped to bring down David Cameron and then so spectacularly thwarted Boris Johnson’s bid to be PM, a fatal move against another leading Conservative would have once again opened him up to charges of disloyalty.

Gove had spent a year in the political wilderness — he did not want to spend so much as another day there. He stayed in the Cabinet, and Mrs May survived — for now.

After leaving Murdoch’s party, Gove travelled to the private members’ club of 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair to compete in a poker tournament with Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith.

At just before midnight he emerged, £250 better off. Not for the first time, or the last, a Gove gamble had paid off.


He wrote: ‘I would not want my [adoptive] mother to feel that another woman came between us, but I would feel powerless to resist any attempt by my birth mother to establish contact. Faced with this judgment of Solomon in reverse, I would only wish I had not been thrust into this position.’

Even as a child, it was obvious Michael was different. More concerned with books than boats, he showed no inclination to follow his father into the family business. Put off by the smell of fresh fish, he told his father: ‘Dad, I can’t do this.’

With their boy making it clear that he would not be able to earn a living with his hands, it was obvious to Ernest and Christine that investing in his brain was the way to go and in 1979, Gove, then 13, passed the entrance exam to attend the independent Robert Gordon’s College.

Sending Michael there would not be cheap: fees were £553 a year — around £3,000 today. There were no foreign holidays for the next seven years, while the family car remained a clapped-out Datsun.

The school was a perfect fit — and Michael later won a scholarship to ensure that he could stay through sixth form.

Intelligent and outgoing, he seemed to arrive fully formed at a time when most boys are searching for an identity. ‘When I see Michael on TV now, I can still see the 11-year-old boy,’ said his headmaster, George Allan, adding: ‘He didn’t change his persona throughout his school career.

‘Consistency — that’s the word, consistency. We couldn’t claim to be the authors of his remarkable civility. He created his own image.’

The head of English, Mike Duncan, remembers Michael’s precocious nature: ‘He was one of the most inquiring pupils I ever remember teaching. At the start of every lesson a hand would go up and it would be Michael.

‘The thought would go through my mind: ‘What is he going to ask now and will I know the answer?’ ‘

But one former classmate said in 2013 that Gove was unafraid to stand up for injustice where he saw it: ‘He wasn’t cool or fashionable, but he was very popular because he’d always have a funny rejoinder, and could outwit the teachers.

‘One of the things I valued him for was that he prevented me from being bullied. I had glasses and red hair, and I vividly remember being bullied in the changing room, and Michael tried to stop it.’

Some teachers were intimidated by him. He was different and they didn’t know how to handle him. One way was discovered by few teachers: a sharp smack to the hand with a leather belt called a tawse.

Gove was given this punishment twice. The reason, as he admitted in 2013, was simple: ‘For answering back. For being cheeky.’

His French teacher, Daniel Montgomery, said in 2012: ‘Even in those days, Michael stood out. One colleague said: ‘That boy is a future leader of the Conservative Party.’ 

In a few weeks’ time, that prediction might — just might — become reality. And the boy given up for adoption by a struggling single mother would have made it to the highest office in the land.

Michael Gove’s rows with Theresa May were ‘like domestic abuse’: Explosive biography lays bare how the pair’s arch-rivalry turned to open mockery, warfare… and a brutal showdown 

From the beginning of the 2010 Cameron-Clegg coalition government, Michael Gove and Theresa May, then Home Secretary, had clashed over policy.

May was the most passionate supporter of Cameron’s promise to reduce net migration to below 100,000 a year, whereas Gove — who was Education Secretary — felt the measures needed to reach that goal would harm the economy.

Their disagreement over substance was exasperated by conflicting political styles. Whereas Gove viewed politics in the manner of the board games he so enjoyed playing at school — and continued to play into his adulthood — May operated on straighter lines.

Michael Gove and Theresa May, then Home Secretary, had clashed over policy from the beginning of the 2010

Michael Gove and Theresa May, then Home Secretary, had clashed over policy from the beginning of the 2010

Michael Gove and Theresa May, then Home Secretary, had clashed over policy from the beginning of the 2010

She was not part of any set, Notting Hill or otherwise, and sought to build alliances through her work, not at dining societies.

Whereas Gove would take pleasure in referencing great works of literature, philosophical thinkers, or the latest cultural zeitgeist, May’s interventions would be markedly less flamboyant.

One Cabinet minister remembers: ‘Michael was always at odds with Theresa because he, George Osborne and Cameron were fellow travellers, and opposed her endlessly on the migration stuff because they wanted much more liberal migration.

‘She was quite the opposite. Michael used to wind her up a lot, it was quite funny. There would be lots of nodding and winking between the three of them — like silly schoolboys really.’

True blue with a taste for orange 

A controversial Orange feeder parade passes the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast

A controversial Orange feeder parade passes the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast

A controversial Orange feeder parade passes the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast

Gove has long been fascinated by Northern Ireland’s Troubles. Sean O’Grady, a journalist who worked with him, recalls an eye-opening visit to Gove’s Notting Hill flat in the early 1990s: ‘He had an enormous cartoon of the Ulster Unionist Party in Parliament — a great big Orange banner type of affair.’

O’Grady says Gove’s politics were ‘quite Orange’, referring to the Protestant creed originating from County Armagh in 1795 which is firmly opposed to the break-up of the UK.

The infamous Orange Order parades often led to violence throughout the Troubles, as the marching routes were disputed or the police tried to stop the events entirely. 

While it is no surprise that a Conservative and Unionist Party supporter should support a unionist cause, O’Grady remembers Gove’s enthusiasm was a ‘bit odd’, saying, ‘he’d be perfectly happy to sing along with Orange songs — “The sash my father wore”, all that sort of stuff.’

Others have witnessed Gove belting out such tunes.

Mike Elrick, who trained with him as a journalist, remembers Gove as ‘very, very strongly supportive of Ulster Protestantism, and very much sided with the Protestant political parties’.

He adds: ‘I remember him singing various Ulster songs. Partly in jest, but he knew the words.’

Controversial: An Orange parade in North Belfast

Nor was Gove afraid to make his dissatisfaction with May more overt. One Cabinet colleague recalls an incident when Gove tore into her for giving a speech interpreted as an early pitch to be Cameron’s successor.

‘It was so uncomfortable to watch,’ he said, adding: ‘It felt like a domestic abuse episode.’

One confrontation turned particularly bloody.

In 2014, there were reports of an apparent Muslim fundamentalist plot to destabilise and then take over schools in Birmingham — dubbed ‘Operation Trojan Horse’.

Gove viewed the allegations as a vindication of his warnings that May had been too soft on fundamentalism, and used a lunch at The Times in early June to directly attack the Home Office.

It quoted a ‘senior source’ — later revealed to be Gove — saying: ‘The Education Secretary is convinced that a small group of extremists has infiltrated schools in the city with tactics similar to those used by the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party in the 1980s . . .

‘Mr Gove blames their influence on a reluctance within Whitehall, especially in the Home Office, to confront extremism unless it develops into terrorism and believes that a robust response is needed to ‘drain the swamp’.’

The Times contacted May’s special adviser, Fiona Cunningham, for a response, and she found herself not just defending her boss, but also her partner, Charles Farr.

Farr was head of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT), located within the Home Office, and was slammed by Gove for only wanting to take on extremists when they become violent, a policy described as ‘just beating back the crocodiles that come close to the boat rather than draining the swamp’.

Cunningham hit back with a punchy quote, trying to turn attention onto Gove’s conduct: ‘Why is the DfE [Department for Education] wanting to blame other people for information they had in 2010? Lord knows what more they have overlooked on the subject of the protection of bids in state schools? It scares me.’

Cunningham decided those words weren’t enough, and a letter which had been sent from May to Gove asking why Gove had not investigated the matter when his department had been made aware of the concerns in 2010, was published on the Home Office website.

Gove was never afraid to make his dissatisfaction with May more overt as one Cabinet colleague recalls

Gove was never afraid to make his dissatisfaction with May more overt as one Cabinet colleague recalls

Gove was never afraid to make his dissatisfaction with May more overt as one Cabinet colleague recalls

To make sure journalists were aware of the letter, Cunningham sent a tweet from the official Home Office account linking to the letter. Cameron was furious. Two of his leading Cabinet ministers were having a turf war in public.

Gove was ordered to apologise to both May and Farr for his briefing to The Times, but it was May who initially suffered the most, as Cunningham was forced to resign for her response and the publication of the letter — both breaches of the ministerial code.

Ultimately, however, it wasn’t rows with May that caused Cameron to ponder Gove’s future in his top team.

It was the Tory-supporting Australian political guru Lynton Crosby who delivered a fatal blow to Gove’s time as Education Secretary. In a meeting with Cameron ahead of a Cabinet reshuffle planned for July 2014, Crosby told the PM teachers and parents viewed Gove as ‘toxic’.

Cameron realised his old friend would have to be moved out of the job he so loved, but had no cause for concern about how Gove would take the news.

The pair had had two previous conversations which led Cameron to believe Gove would understand the reasons for his reshuffle. Gove had told Cameron that if he was ever a liability as Education Secretary, he would understand if he was axed.

A second conversation had taken place where Gove told Cameron he would be happy to take over as Chief Whip from Sir George Young, who had announced in 2013 he would stand down at the next General Election.

With these conversations in his mind, Cameron invited Gove into Downing Street for a drink on Wednesday July 9 and told him of his plan.

To Cameron’s surprise, Gove was not overly sold on the idea.

After leaving No 10, Gove called Cameron to say he would indeed make the switch to Chief Whip. But the next day he panicked.

He loved his role as Education Secretary, and knew a move to Chief Whip would be seen as a demotion. Militant teaching unions, antagonistic academics, unco-operative civil servants and resentful colleagues would all see it as a scalp.

Gove told Cameron the deal was off, he didn’t want to be moved. An hour later, he received a phone call from Young, the man he was supposed to be replacing in the whips’ office.

‘If I were you Michael, I would take the job,’ was the advice, with a strong hint that if Gove refused Cameron would then kick him out of the Cabinet completely.

Just to reinforce the point, Sir George said he had rarely seen Cameron so angry.

Facing the possibility of being kicked out of not just Education, but frontline politics, Gove agreed to the move. 

Adapted from Michael Gove: A Man In A Hurry by Owen Bennett, published by Biteback on July 18 at £20. © Owen Bennett 2019. To pre-order a copy for £16 (offer valid to 15/6/19; P&P free), call 0844 571 0640.

‘Pipsqueak’ fiasco he feared would cost him his job 

When Gove became Education Secretary in 2010, one area identified as ripe for culling was Building Schools For The Future (BSF), a £55 billion programme introduced by Labour.

Gove had previously pledged not to axe BSF but that was in the pre-financial crash days of 2007, and the mood had changed. 

Gove decided to pull the plug on the scheme. Of the around 1,400 schools going through the BSF process, 719 saw improvement plans scrapped.

Gove explained his decision to MPs. He said BSF was characterised by ‘massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy. 

Some councils that entered the process six years ago have only just started building new schools,’ he said.

‘By contrast, Hong Kong international airport, built on a barren rock in the South China Sea and which can process 50 million passengers every year, took just six years to build from start to finish.’

Gove’s focus on the incompetence of the scheme took an ironic twist thanks to his own performance. 

He had not provided MPs with a list of which projects had been axed and which were to go ahead. Yet when a Labour MP asked about schools in his constituency, Gove told him four were unaffected but five had their developments axed.

‘He’s got a list!’ shouted Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls, as MPs voiced their anger that while Gove knew what was happening with schools in their patches, they were in the dark.

A stream of Labour MPs quizzed Gove about specific schools, but he was unable to be certain about all of them.

It was a shambolic performance. But not only had a list of schools affected been handed to the media before it was made available to MPs, it contained numerous errors.

Another list was published, and then a third, as the department struggled to put out accurate information.

Gove was forced back to the Commons to apologise to MPs for his handling of the announcement two days earlier. 

Before he asked Speaker John Bercow for a chance to put the record straight, Labour MP Tom Watson told Gove privately: ‘Michael, anyone can make a mistake, if you come back to the Commons to apologise we’ll be gentle with you.’

As Gove stood to address a crowded Commons, it was clear Watson’s promise was hollow.

Gove adopted his most convincing Uriah Heep demeanour, repeatedly saying sorry for the errors. But Watson was having none of it and called Gove ‘a miserable pipsqueak of a man’.

If Gove hoped his fulsome apology would mark an end to the episode, he was mistaken. More errors were found in the list of schools.

Gove arranged a meeting with David Cameron and George Osborne and spelled out the severity of the situation. ‘I might have to resign,’ he told them.

The PM and Chancellor were having none of it, and told their old friend to stiffen his spine. The storm eventually passed.



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