In a political career stretching back two decades, Michael Gove has been called a lot of things, many requiring the use of asterisks when reporting.

There was no need for such symbols after Trevor Phillips interviewed the Secretary of State for Levelling Up.

“That was classic Gove,” said the Sky News host. “The wall of sound in a sticky situation.”

Gove was not the one in the sticky situation. That was his boss, Rishi Sunak, after a week in which his immigration minister quit.

To go by some of the coverage in the Sunday papers, Mr Sunak might not make it to Christmas as Conservative leader, never mind the next election. Could the UK really be heading for its third Prime Minister in a year?

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It sounds far-fetched, if for no other reason than the Commons rises on December 19, but it will certainly be an eventful week for the Prime Minister.

First comes his appearance before the UK Covid-19 inquiry, where his “Eat Out to Help Out” plan while Chancellor has been blamed for spreading the virus.

On Tuesday his bill to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda faces a vote, with rebellion brewing on the right and left of his party.

Much at stake then, hence the arrival of Mr Gove and his “wall of sound” to blare out the message that all is well.

The Rwanda bill was “legally sound”, he told BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. To MPs considering a leadership challenge, he said: “Let’s focus on the job.”

These assurances might have sounded more convincing had they not followed the first interview with Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister whose resignation left Downing Street reeling. The MP told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that the Rwanda bill was weak, would not work, and he would not support it. There was nothing to stop those refused entry from appealing deportation to Rwanda, he insisted, which would “gum up” the system.

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Mr Jenrick’s more in sorrow than anger tone, and his insistence that there was a way to deliver the kind of “serious” deterrent required, made his intervention sound like the beginnings of a leadership challenge.

But asked if he would rule out running if there is a contest, he said: “I’m not interested in that. I’m solely interested in this (migration) policy. I want the Conservative Party to win the next general election. I want it to make good on its manifesto commitments. I think there is a way to do that.”

Next to occupy the hot seat was Mr Gove.

“The point for our viewers this morning,” said Kuenssberg, “is that lawyers do not yet agree whether this bill will really work, and yet the Prime Minister is making solemn promises to the public that it will make a real difference, and the man who was in charge of this until just a few days ago is convinced that it is not enough.

“This is a shambles on a policy that Rishi Sunak has absolutely wrapped around himself.”

Mr Gove said the number of people who would be able to appeal was “vanishingly small” – a phrase picked up by senior Conservative Damian Green to describe the number of Tory MPs who would support a leadership contest.

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“Anyone who thinks that what the Conservative Party or the country needs is a change in Prime Minister is either mad or malicious or both,” said Mr Green.

Earlier, Mr Gove waded into the row over a social media post featuring a BBC News presenter apparently making a rude gesture. Maryam Moshiri apologised and said it had been a “silly joke” with her team.

The clip was posted on Twitter/X by staff at Conservative HQ with the caption: “Labour when you ask for their plans to tackle illegal migration.” Some Tory MPs criticised the meme and asked for it to be deleted, others supported the move.

“Is this the sort of thing a grown up political party ought to be putting out on social media?” asked Phillips.

“It’s certainly a salty intervention in public debate,” said Mr Gove.

“I think the important thing to bear in mind is that our political conversation takes place in a variety of different ways, on different platforms, and it’s important both to engage people where they are but also, a very powerful point is made that Labour have nothing to say on the question of illegal migration.”

But would Mr Gove have posted it?

“Anyone who has ever looked at my social media will see that I am no social media ninja,” said the Scot. ”My social media is herbivorous, to put it mildly.”

A herbivorous wall of sound? Whatever happens with the Prime Minister this week, there is no danger of Mr Gove being put out to pasture just yet.