A clip from a short-lived Channel 4 late-night comedy show has resurfaced in which Tory leadership contender Michael Gove makes jokes about Princess Diana’s suicide attempts and compares Prince Charles to Hitler.
The Environment Secretary was, in 1992, briefly co-host of Stab in the Dark, a ‘satirical’ programme which billed itself as ‘opinionated, vitriolic and poisonous’.
The then-25-year-old Gove’s quips in the show included jokes about penis enlargement, gays in the military, and the royal family.
In the very first episode Gove compared Prince Charles’s interventions into the debate around nature and architecture to Adolf Hitler.
Then he added: ‘There is one difference, however,’ he said. ‘When Adolf’s wife tried to commit suicide, she succeeded.’
Princess Diana revealed to her biographer she had made several ‘cry for help’ attempts at self harm during the disintegration of her marriage, including throwing herself down the stairs.
One of Gove’s first monologues on the programme focused on penis enlargement surgery and led to a gag about Alison Halford, a high-profile female senior police officer who had brought a sexual discrimination claim against Merseyside Police.
He said: ‘‘If Alison had the chance to take advantage of American micro- surgery, she could have moved her front bumps from her chest to her groin and then she would have had the necessary balls to succeed in the modern British police force.’
In equally poor taste was Gove’s interview with retired General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley. The subject this time? Homosexuality in the Armed Forces.
Gove introduced the topic with a monologue so full of cliches and stereotypes it would have seemed outdated in 1992, let alone watching it back decades later.
Michael Gove said Hitler and Prince Charles had a lot in common in the short-lived show
‘Everything about the Army is designed to attract gays,’ Gove said, adding: ‘Gays attract each other by dressing in a certain way. Cropped hair, moustache and a peaked cap. Put them together and what have you got? Lord Kitchener.’
He went on: ‘In fact, it’s hard to conceive of an organisation more attractive to gays than the Army — apart, of course, from the Navy.
‘Indeed, far from punishing homosexual activity, the Army ought actually to be encouraging it . . . Homosexuals will fight better because they’ve no family to worry about and all those men to impress.’
The jokes were of course intended as satirical stuff targeted at a late- night audience.
In the trailers for the show, Gove was filmed walking through a tunnel in semi-darkness, saying: ‘Most TV programmes insult your intelligence. A Stab In The Dark is different: it’s intelligent and insulting. We’re opinionated, vitriolic and poisonous — and that’s only when we’re being nice.’
The show was not well received by viewers or critics. The Stage newspaper proclaimed A Stab In The Dark ‘an aptly named, live, late-night show on which three smug Lefties told each other how clever they were. Mind you, they probably had to, as virtually no one watched it’.
Last night Mr Gove’s comedy credentials were in the limelight once again when he was forced to deny that he made a jibe about his rival Boris Johnson’s sex life and string of extramarital affairs to deflect attention from his past cocaine use.
The Environment Secretary was repeatedly challenged over his drugs confession yesterday as he battled to get his Tory leadership bid back on track.
Mr Gove then urged Mr Johnson: ‘Whatever you do, don’t pull out’ – and critics said that it was a dirty joke.
He had used his campaign launch event to insist he had ‘acknowledged his mistake’ about taking cocaine and took a series of swipes at Boris Johnson, suggesting he was ‘hiding in his bunker’ rather than facing media questions.
To laughter from his audience, Mr Gove also said: ‘Mr Johnson, whatever you do, don’t pull out, I know you have before, and I know you may not believe in your heart that you can do it, but the Conservative party members deserve a choice. So let’s have a proper race.’
Mr Gove’s team said it had been a dig at Mr Johnson’s last-minute withdrawal from the Tory leadership race in 2016, others interpreted it as a reference to Boris’ infidelity and his relationship with a younger Tory aide.
One Tory MP told The Sun: ‘It’s a disgraceful smear on Boris’s reputation and it sums Michael up’.
Ten MPs are on the ballot as Tory MPs prepare to vote on who will be their next leader
Last year Boris was thrown out by his second wife Marina Wheeler collapsed amid rumours of a relationship with Tory staffer Carrie Symonds, with whom Johnson is now living.
Boris’ daughter Lara reportedly claimed later that her mother would ‘never take him back’, calling him a ‘selfish b*****d’ at a party in September last year.
Mr Gove used his launch yesterday to open up further clear water between himself and Mr Johnson – who has said the UK must leave the EU by the end of October – Gove said he would be willing to delay the process by ‘a day, a week or whatever was required’ if he felt there would be a deal in the end.
The drugs row has sparked speculation about whether Mr Gove – previously one of the favourites for the top job behind Mr Johnson – can stay in the race.