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Translating Sarah Vine's Column On Michael Gove Backing The Leave Campaign

Sarah Vine, the wife of Michael Gove, wrote a column on the justice secretary's decision to campaign to leave the EU. Here's what she really meant.

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Today's Daily Mail features a column by Sarah Vine explaining why her husband, justice secretary Michael Gove, is campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

Daily Mail

It's well worth a read, veering from kitchen-based family anecdote to great matters of state and then back again.

However, sometimes you need to read between the lines. Here are some helpful annotations – just hit the highlights for the translation:

What life at is like at home:

"My husband has many odd and occasionally irritating obsessions: obscure American presidents; Wagner; second-hand bookshops. He also has an irrational aversion to houseplants and quiche[This intro gives us an insight into a typical night in the Gove household, as the justice secretary kicks back with a Zachary Taylor biography while blasting out the Ring Cycle and rejecting a series of quiche Lorraines while shouting at a yucca plant.]."

On Michael Gove's attitudes to the EU:

"But few passions trump his dislike of the EU. The profligacy[The French], the back-scratching[the Spanish], the deceit[the Italians], the endless bureaucracy[the Belgians], the unstoppable march of European federalism[the Germans] — and, above all else, the erosion of British sovereignty[all of those bastards]."

But she wants to make it clear that Gove is not at all prejudiced!

When he and I got engaged, I recall one friend expressing surprise that Gove, arch-Eurosceptic that he was, should have fallen for a girl like me, who grew up in Italy[Love transcends all.]. But Michael’s anything but a Little Englander: he loves Europe (the vineyards of Bordeaux especially)[I’m not anti-Europe — some of my best friends are vintage French wines.].

What life is like in Michael Gove's day job.

It was early days at the Ministry of Justice but already I could tell by the sheer amount of literature Michael was wading through[the look of abject panic on Michael’s face] that he had big plans[Chris Grayling had basically left with the building on fire].

The struggles of Michael Gove's friendship with David Cameron.

He has sought counsel from friends, colleagues, relatives. But at the end of the day, only he could make the final decision: to make the choice between loyalty to his old friend, the Prime Minister, and his own heartfelt beliefs[his ambition to replace him as Prime Minister].

The awkwardness of juggling school holidays with the future of the country.

Now it was all coming to a head and, to cap it all, it was half-term. There’s nothing like trying to wrestle with potentially career-breaking decisions of vital national importance when you’ve got an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old at home waiting to be entertained [Key parts of the EU negotiations happened while Michael Gove was on a zipline swinging betweens trees.]. Thus conversations with senior Tory colleagues were punctuated by games of Monopoly and trips to various overcrowded and overpriced outdoor activity centres[...and he also had to look after the kids, bah-dum-tsch.].

Tidying up is a key part of the discussions.

Meanwhile, I decided to do what any sensible wife [How long is Michael going to keep doing this politics thing?] would do — spring-clean the house. I guess I just feel that even as the sky is falling, the fact that I have a well-ordered cutlery drawer will somehow save me from the worst [At least I'll know we're short on teaspoons when this all goes wrong.].

As is tea.

And so, having re-organised the kitchen cupboards[Never heard it called that before.], I left Michael in his favourite armchair, drafting his Brexit statement[Never heard it called that before.] while consuming oceans of strong tea and occasionally emitting loud sighs, and retreated to my ‘lady shed’ in the back garden[Never heard… etc.].

Michael Gove's son disagrees with him on the EU.

My son, meanwhile, was more engaged in the political debate. He’s on the PM’s side: as a Chelsea fan[as someone who is increasingly despondent at the way life is turning out], he thinks a Brexit would be a disaster because it might limit the pool of foreign players[overpaid mercenaries with no passion or commitment to the club who will leave the second they get relegated] available to his club.

The Gove wedding was quite the event.

"Opening up a box, I came across a stack of photographs from our wedding, back in 2001. Sixty or so of our good friends gamely schlepped to the South of France[We do like Europe, honest.] for a knees-up. There was George Osborne chatting to, of all people, feminist author Caitlin Moran [Moran is currently wishing this could be unwritten.], and Ed Vaizey, now the longest-serving-ever culture minister, delivering his brilliant best man speech. And Samantha Cameron, radiant and pregnant with her first child; she and David laughing on the coach back from the church [We really, really are friends.]."

Boris Johnson has interesting parties...

Thank goodness, then, for a bit of light relief in the shape of Boris Johnson, who a few weeks earlier had invited us to supper at his house in Islington. And so, last Tuesday, we had drinks in Boris and his wife Marina’s stylishly dishevelled [absolutely chaotic] drawing room. Marina and I were broadly in agreement: whatever was most likely to keep the boys happy [We women are in control here but the men can pretend their opinions on the future of the EU matter.]. Also there was the Russian media mogul Evgeny Lebedev [owner of London's Boris-supporting Evening Standard, fresh from shutting down The Independent's print edition], impeccably groomed and suited, a stark contrast to the two baggy-suited [Darling, you look an absolute mess.] politicians sitting next to each other on the sofa.

Boris, meanwhile, was Boris: very agitated, genuinely tortured as to which way to go, although not for quite the same reasons as Michael[Boris's ambitions to be Prime Minister are low, ugly careerism of the worst kind; Michael's intentions are as pure as the driven snow.].

...depending on your definition of interesting.

I, too, listened dutifully for a few minutes, but it really was a very lawyerly conversation, and the aroma rising from the slow-roasted shoulder of lamb was getting to me [My editors have cut out the lengthy description of dinner.]. I tucked in.

Gove is not bothered by zombies.

And the simple fact is that, in his head, the intellectual arguments for remaining in Europe simply don’t stack up. It would be wrong for him to do anything else [This is what it's all about.]. He’s got to see it through. Baroness Thatcher herself could rise from her grave [It's unclear whether Vine is expecting this to happen.] to tell him to get back in his box, and still he wouldn’t [Are you sure you wouldn't do what a resurrected body told you?]. It’s just in the nature of the beast that he makes his judgments based on what he thinks — and not on what others want him to think.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at

Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Tom Phillips at

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