Michael Gove played a key role in forcing through the rule of six at Covid cabinet meeting – and has ‘been consistently on the side of the toughest approach’, says source
- Gove faced opposition from Rishi Sunak, Alok Sharma and Grant Shapps
- Senior Tories believe the rule of six is too draconian and is opposed by voters
- Cabinet sources said Gove was vital in pushing through the restrictions
- Sources claim PM Boris Johnson was ‘completely torn’ on making the decision
Michael Gove played a key role in pushing through this week’s controversial Covid-19 clampdown, it emerged last night.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was heavily outnumbered at a meeting of Boris Johnson’s Covid cabinet on Tuesday when he put forward plans to cut the limit on social gatherings to just six.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Home Secretary Priti Patel are understood to have made the case for a higher limit of at least eight. But a Cabinet source said Mr Gove had also played a pivotal role in ensuring that the controversial rule of six was brought in.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, pictured, was determined to limit the number of people who could meet up in public or private to just six, despite the strong objections of several cabinet colleagues who wanted a higher number
The government was forced to announce the dramatic restrictions following dire predictions by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, left, and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, right
‘Michael was driving this. For some time now he’s been consistently on the side of the toughest, most heavy-handed approach,’ the source said.
‘There was a lot of dissent. The PM was completely torn, and the meeting did not conclude well.’
One Cabinet minister told the Mail: ‘The numbers are awful and it is clear we have got to do something.
‘But the idea of the Government threatening to fine and arrest people for seeing their families makes me feel sick.’
A source close to Mr Gove confirmed he had been ‘supportive of moving to six’ but played down suggestions of a row. ‘It was a thorough consideration of the policy,’ the source said.
The PM’s spokesman saying it was ‘inaccurate’ to suggest Mr Hancock had been a lone voice. One insider said a ‘good few’ ministers had supported the restriction. No 10 has also denied that the PM had to be ‘talked round’ to adopting a policy which he later said ‘breaks my heart’.
The new rule of six represents a dramatic cut in the legal limit on the size of groups who can meet, which previously stood at 30.
The decision to back it at Tuesday’s meeting of the PM’s Coronavirus Strategy Committee meeting followed presentations on the recent surge in the virus by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.