Last Updated on May 5, 2020
Michael Gove, the senior Cabinet Minister, has come under fire by leftists for having a diverse array of political books on his bookshelf.
As the coronavirus outbreak has forced us into our homes, with Zoom calls becoming the norm in stead of in-person meetings, the backgrounds of our work spaces are being judged. This includes, for many, a bookshelf – with both aesthetic and literature choices on full view, it’s an easy avenue to start to judge someone. One Twitter account, “Bookcase Credibility,” does just that to political commentators and celebrities.
One such political commentator is Sarah Vine. Vine is not only a columnist for the Daily Mail, but is also the wife of Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and a key player in Boris Johnson’s administration. Vine decided to tweet out one of her bookshelfs following some criticism for an earlier tweet that included books about Thatcher next to ones about Hitler and Rommel.
The left were not happy that Gove and Vine have a wide array of diverse political literature on their bookshelf. Activists such as Owen Jones and others pounced on the fact that they had a book by David Irving, a holocaust denier, and a copy of The Bell Curve by Charles A. Murray and Richard Herrnstein, a comprehensive study of human intelligence that is often criticised for claiming both inherited and environmental factors influence IQ.
Why does Michael Gove and his wife own a copy of a book by David Irving, one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers on earth https://t.co/53xI6UFyBa
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) May 3, 2020
OK, fine, Michael Gove has a Holocaust denier book on his shelves, as well as The Bell Curve, which Francis Wheen once summarised as arguing: "Black people are more stupid than white people: always have been, always will be."
In no way would this be a news story if it was Corbyn https://t.co/Dc1qFVvKCA
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) May 4, 2020
David Irving, the Bell Curve, Atlas Shrugged… if this had been on Through the Keyhole I’d have guessed Anders Breivik https://t.co/GZQl6UfyG2
— Hicham Yezza (@HichamYezza) May 3, 2020
Vine and others were quick to respond, noting the “censorious” nature of the left, comparing them to authoritarian regimes of the past:
Extraordinary how many people on here seem to be so censorious of books and the idea of knowledge. In common with the Nazis, the Spanish Inquisition, Communist Russia – and pretty much every despotic, brutal regime you can think of. Says it all, really.
— Sarah Vine (@WestminsterWAG) May 4, 2020
Owen doesn’t like people owning books from diverse viewpoints.
What’s next? Banning anything right of Tony Blair from libraries? Or perhaps public book burnings? https://t.co/8gekQN5sAX
— Matthew Lesh (@matthewlesh) May 4, 2020
Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, slammed Jones’s line of thinking in an article for the site:
The implication was clear – that there is something very dodgy about reading a book by a man like Irving. In other words, if you read it, you clearly have some sort of sympathy with the views. Blimey. If that’s how it works, I am beyond redemption. As well as two books by Irving, I’ve got a book by the actual Adolf Hitler on my shelves – not to mention Mao and – here’s where it gets really bad – I also have speeches by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell… Michael Gove has probably done more for Holocaust education and the Jewish community in Britain than any senior politician other than Gordon Brown. It’s obvious to anyone why he would have read the work of a Holocaust denier.
Ian Austin, the ex-Labour MP, and Robert Colville of CapX, also highlighted Gove’s work in combating anti-semitism and promoting Holocaust education:
I don’t know what point Owen is trying to make, but Michael Gove has done a huge amount to promote Holocaust education, commemoration and remembrance and he’s been steadfast in his opposition to antisemitism too. https://t.co/PXEOPJHOzX
— Ian Austin (@LordIanAustin) May 3, 2020
I'm going to go with 'because he sat on the official commission on how we teach and remember the Holocaust, as one of Britain's most eloquent critics of antisemitism' https://t.co/7tadBkt3lv
— Robert Colvile (@rcolvile) May 4, 2020
In 2001, Tony Benn, the former Labour MP, and a hero to the hard-left, said that he bought a copy of “Mein Kampf when [he] was about eight,” describing it as “an astonishing book.” Given Jones’s and others tweets, we should be expecting a posthumous cancellation of Mr Benn any time soon.