It’s been an excellent day so far for one-time lord chancellor Michael Gove MP (we can’t vouch for the evening given the speed with which the news agenda moves these days).

In the Court of Appeal, the minister for the Cabinet Office was able to successfully appeal a High Court ruling over the decision to award a contract to Public First Limited without public notice or competition.

The company had been retained to provide communications expertise on the government’s public messaging strategy during the pandemic (encapsulated by those three-part slogans such as ‘Stay at home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’.

The High Court ruled last year that the contract, worth a total of £564,000 gave rise to apparent bias because of the ‘personal association’ between Dominic Cummings, then chief adviser to the prime minister, and the owners of Public First. It represented a victory for the campaign group Good Law Project, which brought the claim under the guidance of its executive director Jolyon Maugham.

Gove and Maugham entered a little Twitter spat at the time of the first decision, the barrister offering to bet the former justice secretary £100 that the government would lose the appeal too, and asking him to nominate a charity. Gove responded by suggesting the RSPCA, which may or may not have been a reference to Maugham’s infamous tweet from December 2019 revealing he had killed a fox with a baseball bat.

The Court of Appeal ruling ensured that Gove’s money was safe, as well as finding the original decision was an ‘unprecedented outcome’ and that a failure to carry out a full and negotiated contract procedure during a pandemic emergency was not indicative of apparent bias.

Maugham has already indicated that Good Law Project will ask for permission to go to the Supreme Court. Cummings, meanwhile, struggled to be too magnanimous, tweeting: ‘Lord chief justice crushes kimono-fox-killer: total vindication for my decisions on moving super speedy on procurement to save lives.’