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Claim: The secret “State of the Union” report written by Michael Gove and shown to the UK Cabinet in July 2020 has leaked online. It can be read in full on the website of the think tank Onward.

Doorstep answer: The report on the Onward website is a different report on a very similar subject and with the exact same name. Michael Gove’s report remains largely unpublished.

Background: On January 29, 2024, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove gave evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry.

In the process of giving evidence, Gove was questioned on extracts from a secret report titled “State of the Union” which he had written in 2020, during the Covid pandemic, with the help of Tory strategist Isaac Levido.

The National: Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, leaves the UK Covid-19 inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) (Jane Barlow/PA)

Revelations that Gove had looked to use the pandemic to promote the Union, made clear from the extracts shown to the inquiry, sparked a backlash. The following day, some of the extracts shown during the hearing were published on the Covid Inquiry’s official website.

After The National contacted the inquiry asking whether the rest would be published, one more page was added to the online file. However, a spokesperson suggested that the full document would not be published until after the inquiry concluded, if at all.

READ MORE: 'Rank hypocrisy': Anger as Michael Gove pens secret Union report mid-pandemic

In the days that followed, rumours began to spread online that Gove’s full report had leaked, with a link being shared to another, different “State of the Union” report on the website of the think tank Onward.


The short answer is no.

The extracts we have of Gove’s report are written from the perspective of the UK Government. Take, for example, this quote: “We need to change perceptions of our response to Covid-19.” (Italics added).

Or this one: “All departments should review their Covid-19 response to identify examples that could be utilised in future communications.”

Or this: “Absent Covid-19, I am firmly of the view that the risk to the Union would be the greatest challenge this Government needed to confront.”

READ MORE: Tories accused of 'siphoning off Covid funds' for Michael Gove's secret Union paper

None of the above phrases appear in the Onward report, which is coincidentally also titled “State of the Union”. The think tank’s report, which was published in March 2021, was authored by Will Tanner and James Blagden. Gove was not involved.

Either Tanner, Blagden, or both are listed as authors on all but two of the papers published on the Onward website. When MPs or politicians – such as Iain Stewart or Bim Afolami – were involved in writing reports, they are credited.

Although the Onward report has insights into the political situations in the UK and offers an interesting read, it is not the glimpse into the heart of the Tory government offered by Gove’s.


The National:

False. Be careful not to believe everything you read online.