Michael Gove’s first day on the job as David Cameron’s Chief Whip did not quite go according to plan yesterday after the newly appointed minister “got stuck in the toilet” at the Commons.
The former Education Secretary’s misfortune was revealed today by the Shadow Leader of the Commons, Angela Eagles, who explained to MPs that Mr Gove “hadn’t had the most auspicious of starts” in his new role.
Ms Eagles said that Mr Gove “not only lost his first vote but he managed to get stuck in the toilet in the wrong lobby and he nearly broke his own whip”.
It later emerged that Mr Gove had been using the toilet on the “aye” side of the Commons when a vote was called in the chamber.
As Chief Whip, it is now his responsibility to get MPs to vote the way the Coalition wants them to – so MPs said it was “odd” he didn't know about the motion brought by Labour’s Alison McGovern.
Mr Gove ended up stopping in the toilet to speak to a Labour backbencher, and by the time he realised what was happening he had no choice but to stay there until the votes were cast.
The doors to the Commons are locked eight minutes after a vote is called, and if he had left at that point he would joined the side that was against his own Government.
Speaking to politics.co.uk, the MP and education committee member Bill Esterson who bumped into Mr Gove explained how he engaged him in “a bit of a chat”.
“I nipped into the toilet and he was finishing, so to speak, and stopped to talk to me,” Mr Esterson said.
“He stopped to apologise to me for missing our select committee appearance that morning because of his change of job - he was due to talk to us about our inquiry on extremism in Birmingham schools.”
Michael Gove's memorable moments
Michael Gove's memorable moments
1/5 Gove 'claims people move to London for “loads of hot sex”'
The Tory politician allegedly made a surprising claim that no doubt led to chair of Tech City UK Joanne Shields spluttering into her coffee when he reportedly explained to her that London’s young entrepreneurs have been attracted to the capital because of all of the “hot sex” on offer. Hmmmm.
2/5 Gove and the #BritishValues backlash
The Twitter sphere decided to educate the Education Secretary on some of the traits actually associated with being British, after it emerged schools would be required to encourage the promotion of “fundamental British values” in the classroom in the wake of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” investigation. Among the many suggestions were Stuart Brown’s summary of: “Being wary of foreigners while having a Belgian beer with an Indian curry in your Spanish villa wearing Indonesian clothes.” LBC presenter James O’Brien meanwhile suggested “queuing; dressing inappropriately when the sun comes out; warm beer; winning World Wars; immigration & Pot Noodles” could be placed within the British Values bracket, while “socks and sandals” and “complaining about immigration” have proved relatively popular.
PA; E+; Getty Images
3/5 Gove performs Wham! rap to school children
As part of the BBC’s News School Report project, school children were given the opportunity to interview Mr Gove, who claimed to be a fan of rap music. When asked by one girl if he would give them “a taster of your favourite rap”, he responded with an impromptu performance of a Wham! song, complete with bobbing, fist clenching and the lines: “Hey everybody look at me, I’ve got street credibility. I may not have a job but I have a good time with the boys I meet down on the line.”
4/5 Gove is filmed falling over in a Vine
The (very blurry) moment Gove was filmed falling over before hurriedly climbing back up and walking off in a Vine quickly went viral.
5/5 Gove poses for selfie with school children
In a trend that stubbornly refuses to disappear, Mr Gove decided to jump on the bandwagon by posing for a selfie – although he did apparently warn the children to “watch out that he didn’t break the camera”.
Aside from the embarrassment of having to twiddle his thumbs in the toilet while the vote went on, Mr Esterson said it was “a bit odd” he was in the wrong lobby at all, adding: “You would have thought the chief whip wouldn't have been in that situation. He was a little careless.”
The former Foreign Secretary and now Coalition Leader of the Commons, William Hague, made light of the incident at Parliament today, joking: “Knowledge of who is in the toilets in whatever lobby is a very important piece of information for any chief whip and I take this as evidence that he was carrying out his duties very assiduously.”