Academics rage after Michael Gove drops a risky Black Lives Matter gag at the Society of Legal Scholars conference

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By Katie King on

Former Justice Sec’s comments described as “unacceptable”


The Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) has released a statement expressing its dismay at a controversial joke made by Michael Gove at its annual conference.

The three-day bash — hosted this year at the University of Oxford — was attended last week by a number of top legal scholars, and Gove.

Addressing the society delegates over dinner, the former Justice Secretary decided to make a gag about how out of place the pro-Brexit politician felt in a room full of legal academics, who were likely pro-Remain. Attendee Richard Collins reported it on Twitter:

Gove’s comments caused outrage among the academic community, with one describing the Conservative MP’s remarks as “unacceptable” and requesting that an official complaint be lodged.

A lecturer from Birkbeck University said she was “appalled’ Gove was invited to the prestigious conference in the first place.

While an academic from Cardiff University said the KKK and the Black Lives Matter movement are not laughing matters.

Amid the furore on social media, the SLS yesterday interrupted its Sunday to release an official statement on the matter. Having explained that the invitation for Gove to speak at the 7 September event was made when he was Justice Secretary and months before the EU referendum campaign had begun, the SLS then revealed its embarrassment at the comments, stating:

In the course of his speech, aware that his academic audience might be largely hostile given his position on Brexit, Mr Gove drew an analogy, the gist of which has since been tweeted. The Society wishes to distance itself clearly and unequivocally from this comment and sincerely regrets that it was made and caused offence.

Not that everyone was appalled. In and amongst the backlash, the academic who tweeted the original summary of Gove’s words returned to defend the Surrey Heath MP — sort of.

Gove has not responded to Legal Cheek’s request for comment.