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Michael Gove is no less responsible for Britain’s policy on refugees from Ukraine than Priti Patel.  The reason is local authorities’ role in helping these new arrivals.  For example, more than 4,000 Afghans have moved into permanent accommodation since last summer, with over 12,000 supported in about 80 bridging hotels.

Councils aren’t responsible for all this help but are for much of it, especially under the terms of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy, the older of the two specific schemes that help refugees from that country.

So in one sense it isn’t surprising that the Levelling-Up Secretary is deep in the Ukrainian policy weeds, since his department has absorbed the local government functions of the old Housing, Communities and Local Government Department.

In another, it’s striking – at least in terms of his profile, work rate and prominence.  It’s reported this morning that Gove will announce details of a local sponsorship scheme next week.

There can be little doubt that he was instrumental in the appointment of the new Minister for Refugees, who will be based both in the demoralised Home Office and his own growing department, thereby giving him a bigger institutional say in refugee policy.

That Minister is Richard Harrington, who has been round the course before.  He held the post when Theresa May was Home Secretary under the Coalition, and dealt with the refugee influx from the Syrian civil war.

Harrington later resigned from her Government over Brexit policy in the spring of 2019. Six months later, he became one of the 21 Conservative rebels who had the whip withdrawn in the first Johnson government for voting against a no deal Brexit (to sum up what they did in very simple terms).  It was restored to him a month later.

Like nine others who regained the whip at the same, Harrington is at heart a team player – the exemplar of the point being Richard Benyon, now also a Minister in the Lords, at the Department for the Environment in his case.

Harrington was spotted having breakfast with Gove two days ago.  Some of those in the Levelling Up Secretary’s circle have also been urging that visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees be dropped to simplify the application process for asylum claims, with biometric and security checks taking the strain.

The compromise solution seems to be a streamlined via system, but it remains to be seen whether the Home Office can deliver it.

Gove is being studiously loyal to Patel, telling the Commons earlier this week that “we have a Home Secretary who is energetic, determined, on the job, talking to those on the frontline, making a difference” – before being cut off by the Speaker (“the Secretary of State can go on a rant, but not on my watch”).

But he is once again playing Jeeves to Boris Johnson’s Bertie Wooster, helping to provide a solution to a seemingly intractable problem.

I punted Gove as Deputy Prime Minister before the last reshuffle, and then wrote after it that he now holds the post in effect, while Dominic Raab has it in name.  It may have been over-stating the case to write that we now have a Gove-ernment, but ponder the range of activity in his new department.

The Levelling Up Secretary is also responsible for the Union in his role as something called the Minister for Intergovernmenal Relations (which means handling Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, in short).

Since this role also extends to Northern Ireland, this avowed Unionist will also have a hand in dealing with a Sinn Fein First Minister in May, if its people make the lamentable decision to return one.  Beneath him, Neil O’Brien, our former columnist, sits as Minister for Levelling Up, the Union and the Constitution.

As irony would have it, O’Brien is the MP who, more than any other, pulverised the department’s housing policy when it was the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government under Robert Jenrick.

“The next algorithm disaster – coming to a Conservative constituency near you. This time, it’s housing growth,” ran our headline on his article declaring that the proposed formula would take “the numbers down in labour-run urban areas, while taking them dramatically up in shire and suburban areas which tend to be conservative controlled”.

That presaged the end of the algorithm, the policy and, in due course, of Jenrick (though I think that the latter may get a recall to the front bench at some point in the future).

Gove also has Kemi Badenoch in his department, who’s an Equalities Minister in her own right.  That’s a brief that can sit anywhere – at the Foreign Office, for example, which is where her senior Minister, Liz Truss, is placed.  So Gove’s empire extends to her shores, too.

Which means that he will also have a take on the Government’s awaited response to the Sewell Report, due later this month, a year after the publication of the document itself.

Andrew Marr wrote recently that Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace are at the heart of the Government’s response to the Ukraine War: Sunak because he must finance it, and Wallace because he must deliver it.  He suggested that Gove’s levelling up project may be the loser.

That looks right in terms of money and time – since Downing Street’s eye of Sauron, to use an image that the Levelling Up Secretary has sometimes deployed himself, can only focus on one thing at a time.

But Gove has a way of getting himself into the photo and, though the Covid Quad is no more and the Coalition one a memory, it isn’t too much to claim that there’s now a kind of Ukraine Quad, even if it doesn’t meet formally: Johnson, Sunak, Wallace, Gove.

What about Patel?  She is reeling from the double impact of Ukraine on her department – some of it operational, some of it political.

Operationally, she is in the frame, since the Home Office failed to get ahead of the game (see this series of snaphots from Warsaw, for example, which give a flavour of the department’s unpreparedness).  Politically, she is being a bit hard done by.

President Zelensky’s address to the Commons earlier this week confimed that Ukraine’s Government see Britain as a key ally and supporter.  That view will have been clocked in the Kremlin.

The Home Office would take the blame were an arrival from Ukraine to be implicated in a Russian terror attack here – with the media pack turning full circle, clamouring for more checks on new arrivals where now it is calling for fewer.   Furthermore, the Government itself is sending mixed messages.

“I think you’re going to see a couple of hundred thousand Ukrainians be settled – and welcomed – in this country,” Nadhim Zahawi told the Spectator this week.

But a senior source in the Government suggested to me Syrian and Afghan-level numbers: tens of thousands, adding that a pile-up of Ukrainian refugees and small boats “could bring down the Government if we don’t get it right”.  So much for the Home Office.  What of the Foreign Office?

Truss isn’t quite a member of my putative quad, first, because the Foreign Office isn’t a delivery department, as its shambolic conduct during the Afghan Refugee crisis confirmed.

Second, because Prime Ministers have increasingly become their own foreign secretaries, at least when the governments that they lead have big majorities.  Johnson’s appointment of Truss was intended to get her away from economic policy as much as to get her into foreign affairs, if no more so.