Three weeks prior to the big bang, Michael Gove was standing on a rooftop terrace in London’s East End talking about how much he likes Europe. German music, Italian food, French joie de vivre — oh how much he loves this wonderful continent. Gove is a close friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK secretary of state for justice. He is also a leading proponent of the British campaign to leave the European Union, commonly called Brexit. “I got married in France and my in-laws live in Italy,” he said. “Last year, we went to Bayreuth on vacation. Beautiful.” He just couldn’t stop gushing.
There is, though, one thing that he doesn’t like about Europe — the damned European Union. Gove describes the 28-country bloc as a “job-destroying, misery-inducing, unemployment-creating tragedy.” He’s been fighting for Britain to leave the EU for years and is convinced he’s right. He is an ideologue. His strategic skill is one big reason why the anti-EU camp attracted more and more people in the weeks leading up to the vote.
In a room next door, Brexit activists are waiting with signs and “Vote Leave” T-shirts. It is Gove’s job to motivate them for the campaign’s final stretch. He straightens his tie and says that he spent a week sitting on a wooden bench listening to Wagner’s operas at the Bayreuth Festival. It was complete dedication, he says, offering it as yet more proof of his love for the continent — and then an advisor tells him it is time to take the stage.