MEDIA: Michael Gove makes a personal commitment to press freedom

By Hamish Mackay in the Scottish Review

Michael Gove, back in business as a Cabinet member of the Rishi Sunak UK Government, delivered a trenchant personal commitment to press freedom as guest speaker at the London Press Club’s presentation of annual awards for excellence in journalism.

Gove, who began an earlier journalistic career as a graduate trainee at The Press and Journal (P&J), told guests: ‘What keeps politicians honest, what keeps democracy alive, what ensures that this country works, and is a country of which we can be proud, is free speech and free press and free inquiry. And any attempt by government through regulators or through other means to check, undermine or throttle that spirit of free inquiry goes against the very foundations of our democracy. Free speech does not mean anything, but it does mean the freedom to say things that are sometimes painful to those in power and sometimes difficult for others to hear’.

Gove, a former assistant editor of The Times, returned to the top ranks of government when Rishi Sunak appointed him as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations.

He added: ‘I am grateful for the chance to face you as a member of Rishi’s Cabinet. Grateful also after terrible months of turbulence, after a rolling news buffet and all you can eat story extravaganza, that boring is back. The public has had the most amazing feast of events, of controversy, of change, of an almost convulsive 24/7 news cycle eating up every second of their attention. Now is the time I think, certainly from the view of the government, for nerves to settle, for us to get back to the business of government in a quiet way which ensures that others get the headlines’. And he joked: ‘I have to apologise to all of you here for our utter determination to try to be as dull as possible’.

After leaving The P&J during a strike by NUJ journalists on the daily and its sister paper, the Evening Express, Gove became a researcher and reporter at Scottish Television and a reporter for BBC Television before ultimately joining The Times.

An MP since 2005, and serving under four Prime Ministers, Gove has held numerous top political positions and gave evidence to the UK Leveson judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. Gove and his wife, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, divorced earlier this year.

 Scottish journalists shortlisted in British Journalism Awards
Three Scottish journalists and a BBC Scotland team are shortlisted in this year’s British Journalism Awards – widely recognised as the Oscars of UK journalism. The awards are organised and run by Press Gazette and this year have drawn a record 840 entries. It is very encouraging to see Peter Ranscombe, a regular freelance contributor to Scottish Field magazine, featuring right up there with the cream of British journalism – doing battle with five others shortlisted in the Personal Finance category.

Peter is a freelance journalist and copywriter who took over as Scottish Field’s personal finance columnist in 2020. He also served as the magazine’s wine columnist and drinks blogger between 2014 and 2022.

Martin Williams, who writes for both The Herald and The Herald on Sunday, is vying with seven other entrants in the Local Journalism category. And Edinburgh-born Pippa Crerar, fresh from being voted London Press Club’s Journalist of the Year, is shortlisted in the Politics Journalism category for her work while political editor of the Daily Mirror. She has since joined The Guardian as its political editor.

In the Energy and Environment category, a team from BBC Scotland are shortlisted for their documentary Dirty Business. The team members are Liam McDougall, Samantha Poling, Calum Grewar and Shelley Jofre.

The head of UK news at ITV News, Amber de Botton, who is joining Rishi Sunak’s new administration as its director of communications, is shortlisted twice. She is one of a team of four from ITV shortlisted in the Politics Journalism category, and one of an ITV team of four in the running for the Investigation of the Year award for its coverage of the Partygate scandal.

This year’s winners will be announced in a ceremony at the London Hilton Park Lane on 15 December. Press Gazette’s editor-in-chief and chairman of the judges, Dominic Ponsford, told Scottish Review: ‘The judges had an incredibly tough time deciding who should make it through to the shortlists. With 50 entries in some categories, even making it to a shortlist of 10 is an amazing achievement. These finalists provide an inspiring reminder of why we should all be proud to be part of the British journalism industry. They join the greats of our business, a pantheon of heroes who have changed the world for the better through honest journalism’.

You can access the full shortlists on the Press Gazette’s website.

Another top award for Scotland’s Pippa Crerar
Scots-born Pippa Crerar, who has become the new political editor of The Guardian, was voted Journalist of the Year in the London Press Club annual awards for her work as the Daily Mirror’s political editor – producing scoop after scoop.

It was the infamous Partygate debacle that set her aside from the pack. She time and time again revealed examples of lockdown parties attended by Downing Street staff, MPs and Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself. The judges described Pippa’s output as ‘a classic case of brave and ground-breaking journalism on the most important political story of the year’.

The full list of winners is:

Journalist of the Year
Winner: Pippa Crerar, Daily Mirror

Business Journalist
Winner: Ruth Sunderland, group business editor of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday

Sports Journalist
Winner: Jonathan Liew, The Guardian

Winner: Paul Brand, UK editor of ITV News

Multimedia Journalist
Winner: Jerome Starkey, defence editor of The Sun

Scoop of the Year
Joint winners: Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times

Young Journalist of the Year
sponsored by The Journalists’ Charity
Winner: Noa Hoffman, The Sun

Hugh Cudlipp Award for campaigning and investigative journalism sponsored by the British Journalism Review
Winner: Partygate scandal, Daily Mirror

Edgar Wallace Award
Winner: Cartoonist Stanley McMurtry, known as MAC

Sunday Newspaper of the Year
Winner: The Sunday Times

Daily Newspaper of the Year
Winner: The Daily Mirror

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Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK’s exceedingly diverse media market

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