Michael Gove abandons Johnson and launches his own bid for Tory leadership
Michael Gove has sensationally withdrawn his support from Boris Johnson and announced he will launch his own campaign for the Conservative leadership.
The Justice Secretary issued a statement this morning just hours before Mr Johnson was due to launch his campaign, saying he had come to the conclusion that the former Mayor of London "cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead".
It means there are now six confirmed candidates for the Tory top job - Mr Johnson, Mr Gove, Theresa May, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom, who announced she would be running this morning.
Ms May is due to launch her own campaign at 9.30 this morning, with Mr Johnson following two hours later.
Mr Gove's decision is all the more surprising as he has repeatedly said in the past that he does not want to be Prime Minister.
In his statement this morning he says: "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.
"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."
There were hints at discontent within the Johnson camp yesterday when a leaked email from Mr Gove's wife, Sarah Vine, suggested he had not been given confirmation of a job should Mr Johnson win the leadership.
Ms Vine wrote: "You MUST have SPECIFIC assurances from Boris OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support. The details can be worked out later on, but without that you have no leverage."