Michael Gove: Boris Johnson 'wasn't capable' of being Prime Minister
Michael Gove has said he turned his back on Boris Johnson because the former Mayor of London was “not capable” of uniting the Conservatives and leading the country.
The Justice Secretary sensationally withdrew his support for Mr Johnson’s candidacy this morning, just three hours before the former London mayor was preparing to launch his campaign.
Mr Gove said he had decided to put himself forward as leader instead. In another stunning development, Mr Johnson then announced that he was withdrawing from the race.
Furious Tory MPs tonight turned their fire on Mr Gove, with one saying there was a “very deep pit reserved in hell” for him.
Explaining his decision this evening, Mr Gove said he had concluded that his pro-Brexit colleague was not up to the job.
“I thought it was right that, following the decision that the British people took last week, that we should have someone leading the Conservative party and leading the country who believed in their heart and soul that Britain was better off outside the European Union,” he told the BBC.
“I hoped that Boris Johnson would be someone who could ensure that the Government followed the instructions of the British people and also build and unite a team around him in order to lead this country forward.
“And Boris is an amazing and an impressive person, but I realised in the last few days that Boris isn’t capable of building that team and providing that unity, and so I came reluctantly but firmly to the conclusion that as someone who had argued from the beginning that we should leave the European Union and as someone who wanted to make sure that a bold, positive vision for our future was implemented, that I had to stand for the leadership of the Conservative party.”
Mr Gove, who over several years has categorically and consistently ruled out a leadership bid, said he had been persuaded to change his mind by other people.
“There were a number of people who had said to me during the course of the week ‘Michael, it should be you’,” he said.
“I reflected on those comments, I reflected on the individuals who made that case and I came last night, as I say, with a degree of hesitation but ultimately believing this was absolutely the right thing to do – I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to put myself forward.”
PoliticsHome has learned that Mr Gove had become increasingly concerned in recent days that Mr Johnson was ill-equipped for the rigours of leading the country.
He finally made up his mind to ditch him last night, and tried to phone him this morning to let him know of his decision. But after failing to reach him, Mr Gove informed Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian election guru and a close adviser to Mr Johnson, instead. Ten minutes later, he announced his own candidacy.
‘SPASM OF IMMATURITY’
Some Conservatives have responded with fury. Jake Berry, one of Mr Johnson’s allies, tweeted:
Kwasi Kwarteng was similarly scathing when he appeared on BBC News. He said he had been contacted by Mr Gove’s special adviser at 8.30 yesterday evening to discuss the timing of Mr Johnson’s announcement.
“It was craziness. I think it was a spasm of immaturity,” the Tory MP scolded.
“Here’s a man who knew Boris for 30 years and today all of a sudden he says he’s not fit to be Prime Minister, even though he let everyone believe they were coming into a deal, so this is the kind of thing we see in student union politics, frankly, and I’ve just had enough of it and I think a lot of people in the country have had enough.”
He suggested the Justice Secretary had chosen the time specifically to do most damage to Mr Johnson: “For Michael to announce this morning suggests to me that the timing was something he had been deliberately considered.”
Mr Kwarteng said he would now be supporting Home Secretary Theresa May’s bid to be Prime Minister.