My Birth Mother Knows Who I Am, but I'll Never Try to Track Her Down; Today He's One of the Tories' Brightest Stars. but in This Highly Personal Interview MICHAEL GOVE Says He Owes It All to the Down-to-Earth, Loving Couple Who Adopted Him as a Baby

Daily Mail (London), April 24, 2010 | Go to article overview

My Birth Mother Knows Who I Am, but I'll Never Try to Track Her Down; Today He's One of the Tories' Brightest Stars. but in This Highly Personal Interview MICHAEL GOVE Says He Owes It All to the Down-to-Earth, Loving Couple Who Adopted Him as a Baby


Byline: Interview by Andrew Pierce

ONE OF Michael Gove's earliest childhood memories was of watching his father skinning and gutting fish by hand as dawn broke over the harbour in the granite city of Aberdeen. The fish, cod and whiting, had landed packed in ice from a small flotilla of trawlers from the North Sea. He recalls fishermen trampling over in their Wellington boots -- and his father, Ernest, smoking the fish over wood chips.

The business, in a scruffy alley near the harbour, was started by Gove's grandfather, but young Michael had much bigger fish to fry. He never contemplated following his father into the family business.

It was a wise decision. If the Conservatives form a government after May 6, Michael Andrew Gove, 42, will be Education Secretary in David Cameron's first Cabinet.

Gove, unlike most of his shadow cabinet colleagues, has devised a radical policy programme which has actually excited the interest of voters. He is promising to free schools from the tyranny of local education authorities and to break the power of the teaching unions. He will do it by encouraging parents to set up their own schools in conjunction with charities and private companies.

Ernest, 72, and his mother Christine, 70, have every reason to be proud of Gove if he does enter the Cabinet only five years after becoming MP for Surrey Heath.

He was brought up in a maisonette and, having shone at primary school, secured a place at Aberdeen's best private school; he was President of the Union at Oxford University, a reporter on the Radio 4 Today programme and a senior executive at The Times newspaper before becoming an MP.

Two years later, in July 2007, he was made shadow secretary of state for children, schools, and families.

In the heady atmosphere of preparing for a job in government, Gove will, inevitably, think about another woman who has been watching from afar his remarkable rise from humble beginnings.

She knew him as Graham, not Michael. She is Gove's birth mother.

'I was born in Edinburgh. I was four months old when I was adopted,' says Gove. 'I don't know if I was taken from my birth mother at a relatively early age and placed in the hands of carers. All I know is the process of finding and matching me with Mum and Dad was four months.' While it's not unusual for adoptive parents to be told details of their child's birth mother, what is surprising is for the birth mother to know all about the child they gave up.

Gove's was a young student who gave up her baby because the prospect of single motherhood in the harsh, unforgiving social climate of the summer of 1967 was too bleak to comprehend.

'When a child is adopted, the birth parent is not allowed to get in touch,' says Gove. 'But I think my birth mother knows enough about the circumstances of my adoption to know who I am.'

Many mothers who have given up a child never get over the sense of aching loss. Some may dread the knock at the door, the letter or telephone call from their long-lost child. Many more pray for the child to make contact.

Thousands of adopted children spend years in a fruitless and often heartbreaking search for their birth parent. But all Gove has to do is ask, and his parents could tell him enough to know where to find her.

Yet Gove, who by his own admission is 'nosy by nature' -- which is why he became a journalist -- will not do it.

HE ALSO loves history. 'You would have thought the combination of the two -- my curiosity and history -- would have made me incredibly anxious to find out more.

'I think about it often. I wonder what my birth mother thinks. But the people who brought me up are my mum and dad.

'My mother has always said if I want to [trace her] I should. She is equally clear there is no need for me to tell her if I do. I know, though, that she would take it as an indication that I did not feel my life or upbringing was fulfilled.

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My Birth Mother Knows Who I Am, but I'll Never Try to Track Her Down; Today He's One of the Tories' Brightest Stars. but in This Highly Personal Interview MICHAEL GOVE Says He Owes It All to the Down-to-Earth, Loving Couple Who Adopted Him as a Baby
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