London Evening Standard/London
David Cameron yesterday backed Michael Gove’s denial that he revealed the Queen’s private views on Europe.
The prime minister rejected Labour’s call for a Whitehall leak inquiry, making it clear that he believed the justice secretary when he said he had “no idea” who the source of the story was.
Cameron argued that a limited inquiry by the new press watchdog, Ipso, should handle the matter. But Ipso is expected to investigate only the question of whether the Sun newspaper’s headline - ‘Queen Backs Brexit’ - was justified by its evidence.
Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames said whoever leaked the story should be sacked if caught. “As clear as could be they’ll have to go,” he tweeted.
Asked on BBC Radio Oxford whether he would have to sack Gove if it emerged that he was the source of the story, the prime minister said: “Obviously, these are very serious matters.
“But as far as I can see, Gove has made clear that he has no idea where this story came from either.”
Cameron had an audience with the Queen on Wednesday night, according to the Court Circular. Asked if it would be uncomfortable for him if a minister had broken the oath of confidentiality of a Privy Council member, he replied: “Of course. But what we have got here is Buckingham Palace and the former deputy prime minister (Nick Clegg) putting out the clearest possible statements denying this story.
“And the complaint has been made to the independent standards organisation for the press and they are going to have a look at it, so I think we
should let that work continue.”
The Sun’s report alleged that the Queen said Europe was heading in wrong direction during a Privy Council lunch at Windsor Castle in April 2011.
Gove and Clegg were both present, along with Liberal Democrat peer Tom McNally and former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.
Clegg has dismissed the claim as “nonsense” and said he cannot remember such a discussion.
Gove’s allies have insisted they “have no idea who the sources are”. Both responses were seen by some MPs as falling short of effective denials.
Sun editor Tony Gallagher yesterday defended his paper’s report. When challenged over its headline, which was not explicitly supported by quotes, he said the paper possessed secret information it had not published.
“You are going to have to take my word for it that we are completely confident that the Queen’s views were expressed exactly as we have outlined them both in the headline and the story,” he said. “It is also the case that we knew much more than we published and that remains the case. We are in no doubt that the story is accurate.”
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