Michael Gove, the communities and levelling up secretary, made a slightly delayed appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme after being trapped in a BBC lift for about half an hour.
“We were hoping to talk to Michael Gove. You might have been hoping to hear from Michael Gove,” the presenter Nick Robinson told BBC listeners about five minutes after Gove’s interview had been due to begin at 8.10am.
“He’s very kindly come in to the building so we didn’t have to deal with one of those awkward line failures. Mr Gove is stuck in the Broadcasting House lift. I wish I could say this is a joke. It’s not a joke and it’s not very funny for Mr Gove and the security men, who have been stuck there for some time.
“But he’s keeping cheerful, and even offered at one stage to talk to us on the phone. But I think we will try and get Mr Gove released from the Broadcasting House lift, and we hope to hear from him a little bit later in the programme.”
Gove appeared about 10 minutes later, telling Robinson: “After more than half an hour in the lift you successfully levelled me up.”
Saying “these sorts of things happen”, Gove insisted the mishap would not affect negotiations on the future of the BBC, saying it could instead be source material for the corporation’s BBC-set comedy W1A.
Told by Robinson that the hashtag FreeMichaelGove had been started on Twitter, the cabinet minister said he suspected there were “rather more people” who feel he should be incarcerated for longer.
Gove was on a broadcast round principally to talk about a £4bn package intended to make sure leaseholders escape onerous costs in replacing combustible cladding. He is set to announce to parliament that residents of blocks between 11 meters and 18 metres tall will no longer face crippling bills.
He has said developers and others responsible will be asked to pay, and that those who fail to do so could be penalised via legal means and, if needed, the tax system.
Leaseholders in buildings with other fire-safety problems such as wooden balconies could still face significant bills, and campaigners have urged Gove to help them.
In an earlier interview with BBC1’s Breakfast, Gove said the aim was to identify these other defects, saying the “guiding principe is that leaseholders should not be responsible” for such costs.