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‘Highly radicalised’: King’s professor in dispute over Michael Gove quote

King’s College professor Peter Neumann was accused earlier this month of tweeting a ‘concocted story’ about Michael Gove, following the Conservative MP’s speech at a celebration of German Unity Day on Thursday 3rd. In the Spectator, journalist Douglas Murray claimed Neumann, an academic in security studies, had become ‘radicalised’ after the professor shared what he called a ‘summarised’ account of Gove’s speech, in a tweet which has now been widely shared.

Neumann and Gove attended the occasion in celebration of German Unity Day, where Gove had been invited to speak. The audience heckled the MP in response to his claims that Britain and Germany ‘have so much in common’. Neumann subsequently took to Twitter to share his account of the event, claiming that Gove told the German audience that the ‘decision to leave [the] EU [was] on par with fall of Berlin Wall’. At the time of writing, the original tweet has been shared over 3800 times.

But when a recording and transcript of the speech were subsequently released, indicating the tweeted account was perhaps more interpretation than precise fact, Neumann felt compelled to issue an apology. He stated via Twitter: ‘I summarised. My sincere apologies for any misunderstandings. I’m only an ‘expert’, after all’. Neumann’s wry tweet was met with disdain and dismissal from the Spectator’s Douglas Murray, who has since asserted that King’s College itself ‘is fast becoming a home for insignificant polemicists masquerading as academics’.

Having played out largely on Twitter, the scene received a mixed response. Professor Tanja Bueltmann, founder of the EU Citizens’ Champion Campaign, came out in defence of Neumann, calling his description ‘accurate’, while William Wright of think tank The New Financial also gave his support, stating that Neumann’s original comment simply ‘convey[ed] the sense of what many in the room…felt’. Others were less forgiving. ‘Neumann should hang his head in shame’ said one commenter; another, ominously, ‘he’s finished’.

The tweet even caught the attention of Michael Gove himself, who asked for clarification. But the MP has also been known to ‘summarise’ or interpret the truth. ‘The day after we leave,’ Gove declared on the Vote Leave campaign trail back in 2016, ‘we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want’. He even perpetuated the now-infamous £350 million myth, which claimed an additional £350 million of funding would be diverted to the NHS upon our departure from the EU. The pledge was abandoned months later.

 

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