MICHAEL Gove has announced he will seek the Tory leadership after concluding Boris Johnson “cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead”.
In a bombshell announcement that rocked Westminster hours before the close of nominations, the pro-Brexit campaigner who had been expected to back the ex-London mayor threw his hat in the ring.
“I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be prime minister. That has always been my view. But events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me,” he said.
“I respect and admire all the candidates running for the leadership. In particular, I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future.
“But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.
“I have therefore decided to put my name forward for the leadership. I want there to be an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take. Whatever the verdict of that debate I will respect it. In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change.”
The declaration is a devastating blow for Mr Johnson, who was expected to stand with the backing of the Justice Secretary.
During the EU referendum campaign, the two men worked side by side to secure the shock Brexit victory and were believed to have grown close.
But an email on Wednesday from Mr Gove’s wife that was accidentally sent to the wrong person revealed behind the scenes concerns about the former mayor’s leadership bid.
Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine said in the email that her husband must secure a specific guarantee about his future before making any deal with Mr Johnson and should “not concede any ground”.
Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch “instinctively dislike” Mr Johnson, she wrote.
Meanwhile, Andrea Leadsom has announced she is also vying for the party’s top job, tweeting: “Let’s make the most of the Brexit opportunities!”