Gove and The Blob

Today is a month exactly from the UK general election as well as the last day of the G20 summit in Hamburg. Michael Gove is a UK politician who was not expecting to return to the cabinet after his sacking last year. The Blob is a 1958 American science-fiction horror film, according to Wikipedia. And what does any of that have to do with climate?

The Green Blob

Our key phrase was coined by Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary between September 2012 and July 2014. Gove was Education Secretary when Owen started. He and his team, with Dominic Cummings as special adviser, had christened their opponents The Blob – “the nexus of unions, bureaucrats, councillors and others with a vested interest in an unreformed schools system” as Fraser Nelson later put it. In fact, if you can persuade the Telegraph to let you, you might want to try Fraser’s article of December 2014, The Blob gobbled up Michael Gove – now it’s coming for David Cameron. But it wasn’t really The Blob that got Cameron in the end.

Paterson taking this term in 2012 and applying it to “the nexus of bureaucrats, councillors, international climatists, crony capitalists, impact modellers and others with a vested interest in supporting the green movement, dodgy science and related mitigation scams” (let’s say) was a rare moment of enjoyment for some of us watching UK politics.  Predictably The Blob responded with “denier” and its various cognates and Cameron ditched Paterson after less than two years.

But wait

If you google The Blob today you don’t just get the 1958 film and Gove but a more recent use:

Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s aspiring novelist speechwriter turned foreign policy wingman, famously claimed to hate what he called The Blob in a laudatory and much discussed New York Times Magazine profile last year.

That’s from a piece from Politico in March/April called Trump Takes on The Blob (a fun read if anyone has a moment). Swiftly followed by How the Washington blob swallowed Donald Trump in the Financial Times. You get the idea. What might have been called the foreign policy establishment in more prosaic times.

G20 and The Blob

Trump certainly seemed to depart from the normal script expected by The Blob in his speech at the site of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising two days ago. It depends how you see The Blob of course. One man’s blob is another man’s binary large object, after all. But for me David French, by no means a Trump fanboy in all respects, makes a good case, from the words of Obama and Dubya, that the President was making a distinctive break with the old.

As French’s piece shows many have since angrily accused Trump of racism, white nationalism and the like. I’m happy to agree with the National Review man that such invective show little understanding of what’s being argued. Likewise a large mob in Hamburg is angry. As one TV reporter said from the scene, every person there seems to have a different agenda, from veganism to globalism, but they’re united in one thing: they hate Donald Trump.

But the other unifying stick with which to beat the orange one, this time with his other nineteen G20 leaders happy to join in publicly, is climate and the foolish, toothless Paris agreement. Isn’t that amazing? I think sometimes we’re so used to the irrationality that we fail to take a step back.

There are more important things than climate, surely, as I said in my first Cliscep post. Reduction of every virtue to climate virtue not just incredibly dumb but damaging. Because he hasn’t done that Steve McIntyre sees clearly that Ivanka’s weeping over an al-Qaeda propaganda video of some poor Syrian children they probably murdered themselves, and the consequent reported change in Trump’s foreign policy, is somewhat bigger beer.

I’d argue that Climate Scepticism is above all the conviction that climate really isn’t that important. And sometimes we need to make clear what is.

Gove and the Green Blob

As far as I know Michael Gove doesn’t agree with Steve McIntyre on Khan Sheikhoun and would still advocate the removal of Assad. But that’s not his brief in Theresa May’s new government – he’s been given the job Owen Paterson had, heading up the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Between Paterson then and Gove now we’ve had the little matter of the vote for Brexit on 23rd June 2016, something that can surely be seen as a successful continuation of the battle begun against The Blob in Education, with Dominic Cummings a strange mixture of reluctant ideological and tactical continuity.

As I mentioned two threads back, Cummings has begun to tweet in response to some key gloomy Remainer-tweeters this week. Here are three of his thoughts glued together, with expansion of shortened forms, from two days ago:

Leavers outside the Cabinet should worry less about the Brexit talks. Will be botched but not so important. Should focus on new ideas where the UK can create huge value. Single Market is yesterday, we should focus on the future: bio-engineering, AI and new industries, new models for regulation, finance etc. It’s silly to be pessimistic about the talks as if the future is defined mostly by them. It isn’t. It can be defined by what we choose to focus on and build — here, here, here

And building something new outside the EU is what I think Gove is going to try to do in DEFRA, based on the early signs. He like the Prime Minister has also criticised Trump for pulling out of Paris, much to the chagrin of his old friend from Oxford and the Telegraph, James Delingpole. But I think Gove has learned a thing or two about how The Blob works in general and has seen a weakness in the Green Blob: they’re really not very green, by any sensible definition of that term. He’s going to try and wrest the colour from them.

This is based on a number of things I’ve watched and read of late, prominent among them Gove’s interview on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday and with Tim Shipman the same day behind the Murdoch paywall. (Best line: “He now says he cannot get enough of experts.”) Perhaps most intriguing for the future is Trevor Kavanagh‘s short piece that night in The Sun, which remains tentatively hopeful for Gove as Prime Minister one day. But you don’t have to entertain that wild idea to think Gove and the Green Blob may be a compelling match for as long as the May administration manages to last.

Moderation note

There won’t be any, from me. Others in the Cliscep core team are welcome to remove pointless rudeness, therefore, if they want. I won’t. I expect to be busy with other things from Monday.


  1. The secret to blobs of all colours, in the short term, is to make loads of vaguely positive statements while doing nothing off camera. It’s how most countries happy with the EU tried to managed things. They’d agree to everything and then just never enact the policies that didn’t suit them. When tackled, the unfinished actions were ‘in progress or ‘we need more help/money’. Admittedly it’s now a practice that’s coming back to bite them. A benefits culture; zero borders; poor repatriation systems hampered by human rights laws and lawyers; near instant communication to even the poorest and the removal of several useful, brutal dictators who inadvertently acted as a border guard. Poorly thought out laws turn out to be handcuffs preventing the law abiding from dealing with a growing and severely dangerous problem. Countries experienced in waffling the others into exhaustion now find their own urgent needs shelved in favour of simpler issues. Climate change is a welcome distraction for leaders who want to hide from the very urgent catastrophes developing in their own territory.

    Will Gove be any use? I doubt it. He’s smart enough but he’s not very good at persuasion. I also doubt he understands the issues well enough to negotiate the Blob and their machinations. He’s certainly in no position to defeat them and the best we can hope for is delaying tactics and the arguement that we haven’t got the spare cash for grand schemes.


  2. A blob of whatever hue is a disorganized mess. My suspicion and fear is that the Green Blob (or at least substantial parts of it) is far from being disorganized and shows every sign of growing larger and stronger. At this site, and at others like it, every scintilla of evidence suggesting a government’s opposition to the Green Blob is anxiously identified and given prominence far beyond reality. I see little evidence for the May government (or any of its components) being less green than its successors. When one reflects upon the fact that the EU was largely led by the UK into the green parkland, Brexit should cause Green Blobbists little concern.

    My belief (and that’s all it is) is that Gove, whatever he does, is a busted flush. He will never be forgiven for his performance in the Tory leadership race, by his party, by the media or by the public. Just look at the way he is portrayed by comedians. His telephoning avatar (Govee) on Dead Ringers just won’t disappear.


  3. To whom it may concern
    Thank you for keeping the spirit but considerably improving the style of my 11.08 post, whomever you are.
    Either that or I suffer from an unrecognized split personality (and the less erudite personality is back in control).


  4. Tiny and Alan, I don’t quite share your pessimism about Blob Verte and that’s partly because of Gove’s powers of persuasion revealed in the Brexit campaign itself. His achievement with Faisal Islam the night after David Cameron was immense. We tend to forget or underrate that. One big thing Gove didn’t get right is that Vote Leave was going to win. He’s learned not to assume too much – and to listen on such matters to his friend Dominic (who memorably said of theories that he was the evil genius who masterminded Gove’s ‘knifing’ of Boris “I didn’t organise that because I’m not a moron”).

    Cummings is honest enough to admit that Brexit itself may turn out to be an error in some ‘branching histories’ – as he likes to see the world. Gove wants to help make sure it’s a net positive. And I think the utter contempt of the Green Blob for real environmental concerns is something close to an open goal in that context. But the Blob is organised Alan, I agree with that (and so did the original film, I believe!)


  5. Excellent! One of my main points over the 10+ years I have paid close attention to the climate us that not much is actually happening of any significance regarding climate. The hysteria is entirely anthropomorphic….the projection of inner visions onto the Rorschach blobs of clouds, distant floating ice, and storms near and far. You make this point much more clearly and well updated.


  6. hunter: Very much kinder than I deserve, thank you. The phrase that triggered some more thought was “well updated”. It seems highly unlikely Gove would have been brought back by Theresa May if, as she’d planned, the Tories had achieved an increased majority. (There’s history there, and with Dominic Cummings.) Time will tell whether Michael will be able to make a difference at DEFRA but it’s far from the update we all expected for him to be there, whether two years ago or two months ago. At the same time Trump is perhaps making some unsayable things about climate sayable. The reasons he gave for pulling out of Paris were canny and really unanswerable, if anyone in the media had actually bothered to try to answer them. The situation seemed worth an update.

    Jaime: I personally love Mogg. How he would play across the whole UK electorate I don’t know. He reportedly urged Gove to run for leader rather than back Boris, right after the referendum result last year. What a mess huh.


  7. “He’s going to try and wrest the colour from them”

    I think not, from his pronouncements yesterday. Unless he is playing a deceptive game to avoid a Patterson exit, he could now perhaps be called Mr Blobby.


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