Michael Gove goads Boris Johnson as he insists he will not quit over cocaine confession
Michael Gove has launched a fresh attack on Boris Johnson as he insisted he will not quit the Tory leadership race over his admission that he used to take cocaine.
The Environment Secretary, who has suffered days of negative headlines after his drug use 20 years ago was revealed in a new book, insisted he was "in it to win it" as the contest officially began.
Launching his campaign, Mr Gove directed a series of barbs at his former Cabinet colleague, who he famously dumped during the last leadership election in 2016.
And he also refused to confirm that the former Foreign Secretary would get a job in his Cabinet if he becomes Prime Minister.
Mr Gove began by condemning Mr Johnson's plan to cut income tax for those earning between £50,000 and £80,000 a year.
"One thing I will never do as Prime Minister is to use our tax and benefits system to give the already wealthy another tax cut," he said.
"I believe in low taxes and pro-enterprise policy. But the poor must come first."
Insisting that "in serious times we need a serious leader", he then took aim at Mr Johnson's relative invisibility in the leadership race so far.
He said: "That is why at this time we need someone who has been tested in the heat of battle. Someone who is prepared to go under the studio arc lights in order to make the case for Conservatism. Someone who will take on Jeremy Corbyn at the despatch box, not hide in their bunker."
Refusing to even use Mr Johnson's name, Mr Gove then condemned the Tory big-hitter for insisting he would take the UK out of the EU "deal or no deal" on 31 October.
Mr Gove said: "There are some other candidates in this race, including the person who I'm told is the frontrunner, who have said that if it were the case that we'd made a lot of progress, we were on the cusp of a deal but we hadn't dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't' at midnight on October 31, they would junk all that progress that we've made and immediately say ‘let's leave without a deal’
"We all know what would happen then. There would be a vote of confidence in the House of Commons that the Government would lose.
"There would be a general election. We would have Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street by Christmas, someone dedicated to breaking up our United Kingdom, to ensuring that there was no Brexit and to destroying this country's economy.
"So yes I'd be willing to delay for a day or a week or whatever's required in order to get that deal over the line if we were making progress.
"The danger is that if we vote for a potential Prime Minister who said whatever happens I'm doing to leave to leave on October 31, we will be voting for a Prime Minister who will not be able to deliver Brexit before there's a general election.
"The Conservatives will lose that general election - and that choice will lead to Jeremy Corbyn."
Insisting he will not quit despite the controversy over his cocaine use, Mr Gove also poked fun at Boris Johnson by urging him not to withdraw from the race if the pair end up going head-to-head in the final run-off.
He said: "Let me say this: if I get through, which I'm sure I will actually get to the final two, against Mr Johnson, this is what I will say to him: Mr Johnson, whatever you do. Don't pull out.
"I know you have before. And I know you may not believe in your heart that you can do it. But the Conservative Party membership deserve a choice. So let's have a proper race."
Leadership hustings will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the first ballot of Tory MPs taking place on Thursday.
Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab also took aim at Mr Johnson's tax pledge when they launched their leadership campaigns on Monday.