Ranked: The Most Controversial Things The New Cabinet Have Said


Nadine Dorries, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove were all given new roles in the cabinet on Wednesday

Boris Johnson’s latest cabinet appointments have divided the public as people unearth the new ministers’ past controversies.

Here are the most eyebrow-raising comments from the prime minister’s new-look top team. 

1. ‘Homosexuals thrive primarily on short-term relations’

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Michael Gove, the new housing secretary

Who: Michael Gove, former chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, now the newly appointed housing secretary.

Then: Gove made a speech in 1987 where he ridiculed the gay community.

He said: “Many of us are familiar with the fact that homosexuals thrive primarily on short-term relations.”

He continued: “Those of us who’ve spent hours in New York bathhouses will realise that one night you can pack in 15 loving relationships and 300 one-night stands, and still be none the worse for wear.”

He also described Margaret Thatcher’s policies as “rigorously, vigorously, virulently, virilely, heterosexual”.

The recording was obtained by the Independent and includes a snippet of Gove’s debate against Cambridge University when he was a student and  the president-elect of the Oxford University’s debating society.

Now: A source told the BBC that the comments were made in jest, and do not reflect the minister’s real views. Defence secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News that Gove is “not homophobic in any way at all”. Gove declined to comment when approached by The Independent.

2. ‘Global warming isn’t actually happening’

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The new international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan 

Who: Anne-Marie Trevelyan, former business minister now the international trade secretary.

Then: Trevelyan tweeted repeatedly in 2011 and 2012 claiming climate change is not real.

In 2012, she tweeted: “Clear evidence that the ice caps aren’t melting after all, to counter those doom-mongers and global warming fanatics.”

She also wrote: “We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening.”

Now: Trevelyan seems to have changed her tune in the years since those tweets, and wrote in May 2021: ”#ClimateChange is causing increasingly ferocious & frequent disasters from storms to drought.”

Tweeting ahead of the UN’s climate summit COP26, she added: “Helping communities build resilience to climate impacts is a priority for the UK’s @COP26 Presidency.”

She will be inheriting a draft trade deal with Australia where the climate change promises are already under threat.

3. Taking the knee is ‘gesture politics’

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Priti Patel remains home secretary

Who: Priti Patel, the home secretary, had been seen to be on shaky ground but has managed to stay in her role.

Then: Patel caused a stir when she defended the crowd’s right to boo the England football team for taking a knee on the pitch before a game.

Speaking in June 2021, she said: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics.”

She said it was “all well to support a cause and make your voices heard” but declined to say whether she would actually boo the England team herself.

She added: “That’s a choice for them quite frankly. I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that.”

Now: Patel then condemned the racist abuse the footballers endured after losing the Euro 2020 final. She dubbed the criticism “vile” and called for police interference.

Footballer Tyrone Mings soon called her out on her double standards, and tweeted: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens.”

4. ‘Could a sister marry a sister to avoid inheritance tax?’

Toby Melville via Reuters

Newly-appointed culture secretary Nadine Dorries

Who: Nadine Dorries, former health minister and current culture secretary.

Then: in 2013, Dorries tweeted: “If gay marriage bill takes sex out of marriage could a sister marry a sister to avoid inheritance tax?”

The same year she also tweeted: “Gay marriage comes back to Parliament in 10 days. If [David] Cameron wants to lose Conservative party 50 seats, he must keep on pushing through.”

Two weeks later, she added: “So, we dropped to 27 points in tonight’s poll. That gay marriage thing is really working for us.”

Now: In 2015, she claimed: “On gay rights issues, I voted the way the gay community in my constituency asked me to.”

Dorries has since claimed she is pro-same-sex marriage, although she said the same thing in 2012 and ended up voting against legalising it in Parliament twice in 2013.

5. ‘Feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots’

Stefan Rousseau – PA Images via Getty Images

Raab is now the deputy PM, justice secretary and lord chancellor

Who: Dominic Raab, former foreign secretary and the current justice secretary, lord chancellor and deputy prime minister.

Then: In 2011, Raab said: “From the cradle to the grave, men are getting a raw deal. Feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots.”

He previously called the government equalities office “pointless” and suggested it should be abolished.

Now: When approached about the comments in May 2019 on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Raab stood by his claims. He said it was “really important that in the debate on equality we have a consistency and not double standards and hypocrisy”.

He added that he was supporting the equality select committee in the push for more job protection for new mums and paternity leave for dads.

6. ‘The British are among the worst idler in the world’

Who: Several cabinet ministers working together.

Then: Truss, Patel, Raab, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and backbencher Chris Skidmore co-authored a book called Britannia Unchained in 2012.

The controversial text included passages which read: “The British are among the worst idlers in the world.

“We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.

“Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

It added that Britain “should stop indulging in irrelevant debates about sharing the pie between manufacturing and services, the north and the south, women and men”.

Now: Raab later said the extracts widely shared of the book “gave a skewed and inaccurate reflection” of what was in the text.

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