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Michael Gove calls for Christian forgiveness as Sue Gray report speaks of leadership failings

by Donna Birrell

Boris Johnson has apologised after the long-awaited Sue Gray's report has revealed "failure of leadership in No 10 and Cabinet office". 

Speaking in the House of Commons he said: "I want to say sorry. I’m sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way that this matter has been handled."

“I get it and I will fix it,” he said as he promised to make changes to No 10 and the Cabinet Office.

The report has found there were a number of gatherings that should not have been allowed to happen and said the events were "difficult to justify". 

It also showed there was "excessive consumption of alcohol" and that although some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed, at times they felt "unable to do so". 

Of the 17 events that were looked at in the report, at least 12 have been passed onto the police for further scrutiny. 

Prior to the report Michael Gove, the Minister for Levelling Up, said we should show "Christian forgiveness" to the Prime Minister and government staff who broke the rules relating to so-called "partygate" events at Downing Street.

Speaking to the broadcaster Andrew Neil as part of a Channel 4 documentary, Mr Gove said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that mistakes were made and he’s taken responsibility for those.

“I’m sure that when the report is published there will be from individuals concerned recognition, contrition and so on, and you know we owe them an element of Christian forgiveness.”

Andrew Neil had been referring to government posters which were used during lockdown. The posters showed a woman on a ventilator, with the words "Look her in the eyes and tell her you never bend the rules". 

Michael Gove has previously spoken of the importance of his Christian faith. In 2018 in a lecture for the think tank, Theos, he said “the moral teachings of the Christian Church, the example of Christ’s life and Christian theology, all help us in reflecting on the responsibilities we all have to others.”

When he was Justice Secretary, he reflected on  how Christianity’s emphasis on reconciliation and forgiveness shaped his approach. 

Graham Nicholls, the director of the Affinity network of evangelical churches told Premier whether Christians should always be ready to forgive. 

“I don't think there's any sense in the Bible, particularly the New Testament that we should ever refuse forgiveness to anyone who repents and who seeks to seek out forgiveness. So I don't think that should be withheld on any grounds. But I don't think forgiveness means they should be let off. 

“I think as someone who wants to support the law as a Christian, but wasn't particularly convinced by the logic of all the lockdown measures, I would think it will be completely legitimate to rethink some of the penalties that were doled out to people. Because I think there was an unreasonable- ness to it. But I think that has to be on the basis of whether it was reasonable and proportionate, not on the basis of whether number 10 committed a crime or not. I don't think it should be well, we'll let them off, so we'll let everybody else off. 

“I think [Mr Gove’s comments ] have got us talking about [Christian forgiveness ] and it may get others talking about it. Maybe there will be other comments saying about other kinds of forgiveness. So hopefully, we'll start conversations that people can pick up on.” 

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