The Prince by Machiavelli not only provides a powerful insight into the politics of the 16th century but also describes compelling maxims that remain true today. This could have been written in consideration of Brexit:

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones. ”

The wisest boss I ever had once said to me “Read the Prince, then you will understand.” “Understand what?” I questioned. “Everything!” he replied. I took his advice. It is an excellent book. Now Michael Gove has made it into a real life drama.

It was Gove who persuaded the charismatic Boris Johnson to side with leave. Boris was wavering but by dangling the Crown he drew Boris in. “…he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” 

The Vote Leave campaign was won and Boris was no longer required. He was dispensed with brutally and efficiently following this Machiavellian instruction to the letter.

“People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.”

In doing so Gove has almost certainly handed a place to Andrea Leadsom on the member’s ballot, for he who wields that dagger shall never wear the crown. Gove certainly knew that the closest allies of Johnson would rally to Leadsom. This will certainly place  her in the final two with Theresa May on the Conservative Party member’s ballot.

Gove is undoubtedly a brilliant man, but he has long been realistic about his prospects of leadership. He knows that he doesn’t have the look of a Prime Minister and will know well Machiavelli’s view that “The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”  So when he publicly executed Boris Johnson it was not to become king, but kingmaker.

In doing so Gove will have made many enemies, but also some very powerful friends. Boris loved to be loved – Michael chose to be feared.

“it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

Andrea Leadsom is gaining huge popular support amongst Tory activists. You might think Theresa May, but I think Andrea Will. The excellent launch speech from Andrea today shows her broad appeal. She will be an outstanding PM and we have Michael Gove to thank.


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