Michael Gove made crude sexual comments, joked about paedophilia within top levels of government, and used a racist slur in a series of remarks in his twenties, The Independent can reveal.
The Cabinet Office minister also described Prince Charles as a “dull, wet, drippy adulterer” in speeches at the Cambridge Union while he was a student at Oxford, and after his graduation while working as a journalist.
In apparent attempts at humour, Mr Gove referred to people living in countries colonised by the British as “fuzzy-wuzzies”, accused the late former Tory minister Sir Leon Brittan of being a paedophile, and made a string of sexual jokes at the expense of Conservative minister Lucy Frazer.
The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, who has been tipped for the position of either foreign secretary or home secretary in a potential reshuffle, also described Margaret Thatcher’s policies as a “new empire” where “the happy south stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner”, and said that gay people “thrive primarily upon short-term relations”.
Mr Gove made the comments – which were met at the time by cheers, stunned laughter, and shouts of “shame” – at three evening debates at the Cambridge Union in February 1993, December 1993 and during the winter of 1987, recordings of which came to light this week.
By 1993 Mr Gove had forged a career in television at the BBC, working on the politics programme On the Record, and had performed on Channel 4’s short-lived comedy programme A Stab in the Dark.
In February of that year, Mr Gove made a number of comments about the then European commissioner Sir Leon Brittan, speaking in favour of the motion “This house would rather have a degree from the university of life”.
Imagining an exchange between the two men, Mr Gove said: “[Leon] said: ‘Cambridge taught me an appreciation of music. And in particular an appreciation of the mature male soprano voice.’”
Mr Gove further imagined Sir Leon telling him that there was “no sound sweeter” than a young boy’s voice breaking, apart from the sound of the same boy involved in a sex act.
Sir Leon was a key cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and, before his death in 2015, was targeted by Scotland Yard in a VIP sexual abuse investigation triggered by the testimony of fantasist Carl Beech. The allegations against Sir Leon were found to be false, and Beech was sentenced to 18 years for perverting the course of justice and for fraud.
Mr Gove went on to joke about reporting Sir Leon to “special branch”, saying that he “now satisfies his desires in the Bois de Boulogne and various other Brussels hangouts.”
In December of 1993 he made a speech in support of the motion “This house prefers a woman on top”.
Mr Gove boasted that current justice minister Lucy Frazer, who had invited him to speak at the time, was “actually capable of tempting me into bed with her”, and implied that one college’s entire rugby club had had group sex with her.
He then referred to her “preference for peach-flavoured condoms” and said she had done “remarkably well” to come from “the back streets of the slums of Leeds”.
The Independent understands that Michael Gove and Lucy Frazer were not romantically involved, and that his descriptions were purely fictitious.
In 1987, when Mr Gove was in his final year at Oxford University and serving as president-elect of its debating society, he spoke in favour of the motion “This house believes that the British empire was lost on the playing fields of Eton” as part of an intervarsity debating competition at the Cambridge Union.
In making his case, he used a racial slur, saying: “It may be moral to keep an empire because the fuzzy-wuzzies can’t look after themselves.
“It may be immoral to keep an empire because the people of the third world have an inalienable right to self-determination, but that doesn’t matter whether it’s moral or immoral.”
Referring to the practice of British rule, Gove said that “Eton took the cream of the colonial system, it took fettered foreigners and it turned them into gentlemen.”
“Fettered” is a term that is used to describe people, often slaves, who have been restrained with chains or manacles, typically around the ankles.
He later went on to describe the economist John Maynard Keynes as a “homosexualist”, adding: “Many of us are familiar with the fact that homosexuals thrive primarily on short-term relations.”
The speech also included Mr Gove’s opinions of Margaret Thatcher’s policies, which he described as “rigorously, vigorously, virulently, virilely, heterosexual”.
He continued: “We are at last experiencing a new empire: an empire where the happy south stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner.
“At last Mrs Thatcher is saying I don’t give a fig for what half of the population say because the richer half will keep me in power. This may be amoral, this may be immoral, but it’s politics and it’s pragmatism.”
Mr Gove, who became an MP in 2005, also said that the Prince of Wales was an example of how university education makes people boring. He referred to him as “a dull, wet, drippy adulterer whose romantic conversation is dominated by lavatorial detail”.
Another jibe was made at the expense of the then president of the union, with Mr Gove saying: “Putting you in charge of the Cambridge Union was rather like putting Slobodan Milosevic in Serbian high command in charge of a rape crisis centre.”
More recently, in 2017, when appearing on the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Gove joked that being interviewed by the presenter John Humphrys was like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom – “You just pray that you emerge with your dignity intact.” Mr Gove later apologised, saying it had been a “clumsy attempt at humour”.
The Liberal Democrats have called for Boris Johnson to consider whether Mr Gove should remain in the cabinet in light of the comments.
Wendy Chamberlain MP, Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: “Michael Gove should be ashamed that he ever thought these things, let alone said them. These inappropriate and racist remarks are not befitting of a government minister, not befitting of a journalist, in fact not befitting of anyone.
“The prime minister should consider whether this is the type of person that deserves to be sat around the cabinet table. However, given Boris Johnson’s own history of disgraceful remarks, I expect this will be another shameful issue he lets go unchallenged.”
Mr Gove and Ms Frazer declined to comment.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies