One senior member of Liz Truss’s top team likened him to a scorpion whose only job is to sting, even if it means taking himself down as well as the party. Before the U-turn on the 45p top rate tax cut, Mr Gove had provoked Tory fury by calling for the Prime Minister and Kwasi Kwarteng to ditch the measure in a series of incendiary interviews.
Emotions boiled over with one Cabinet Secretary telling the Daily Express they weren’t surprised by Mr Gove’s actions because he is a “disloyal ****”.
They compared the former minister to the deadly eight-legged creature in the Scorpion and the Frog – a fable which teaches that vicious people cannot resist hurting others, even when it is not in their own interests.
When told about Mr Gove’s remarks another senior Cabinet Minister used the same four-letter expletive.
The row and the fallout from the change in policy has overshadowed the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday called Mr Gove “the Tory Party’s version of Peter
Mandelson” in reference to the former Labour MP’s reputation in the “dark arts” of politics.
Asked at a fringe event if Mr Gove is a thorn in the side of the Government, the Business Secretary replied: “No, no. He’s too polite to be a thorn. He’s a very elegant thorn if he is a thorn, no, no, no.
“Michael is one of the cleverest men in politics, a very amiable figure, who loves the art of politics. He’s the sort of Tory Party’s version of Peter Mandelson.”
Meanwhile, at a separate event at the conference, Mr Gove said the atmosphere this year was a bit “different”.
He added: “There is a different atmosphere, but that is because we have a different Prime Minister and also because the world faces a set of crises even more acute in this autumn than it did last.
“We are operating against that backdrop.”
It is not the first time Mr Gove has been likened to a predatory animal, with allies of former PM Boris Johnson branding him a “snake” earlier this year.
The description dates back to when he blew up Mr Johnson’s 2016 leadership bid and then stood in the contest himself.
Mr Johnson sacked him from the Cabinet in the final hours of the ministerial revolt he faced in July.