30 Jun 2016

Michael Gove has done a double Brutus


Last night as the Tory family put down its weapons, Mafia style, to break bread at a fundraising dinner at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham, West London, Michael Gove was putting the finishing touches to his surprise bid for the premiership.

Boris Johnson aides had over-briefed how committed Mr Gove was to the Johnson cause. Mrs Gove’s leaked email yesterday showed things had not been shaken on by Tuesday morning, despite Team Boris saying that Gove was their campaign manager.

In huddles outside the Hurlingham Club, while the rest of the Tory Party bigwigs ate and drank inside, Mr Gove was in tense talks with aides and phoning colleagues before making his final decision.

With a perfunctory call very close to the press statement announcing his candidacy, he has abruptly arrested and probably completely destroyed Boris Johnson’s chances of becoming PM.

The PM’s circle were already calling him Brutus. Samantha Cameron has told friends she will never speak to the Goves again.

Now the Johnsons’ dinner parties are off limits.

Can he become PM?

Michael Gove has gone a lot further than others in the past in ruling himself out not on grounds of skill or ambition but on grounds of temperament. He said repeatedly that he didn’t have the calm serenity of mind and the thick skin required to do the job.

Some people very close to him, some in the party, probably George Osborne with whom he managed to stay in touch throughout the turmoil and bitterness of the campaign, have helped to change his mind. The adulation of Tories and the right wing press has played a role too

On Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch at The Times CEO summit said that Michael Gove should be the UK’s next Prime Minister. The Daily Mail editor in chief Paul Dacre has long wanted it. The Goves are very close to the Mail proprietor and his wife, the Rothermeres.

I write this at the Theresa May campaign launch against a backdrop of weathered serious volumes in a Whitehall think tank – in praise of experts perhaps.

Chris Grayling announced he’ll chair her campaign – so that’s one campaign manager who turned up to do the job today.

Theresa May talked about the need for competence in the aftermath of the referendum. Her supporters cast her as an Angela Merkel figure, a serious leader for serious times. Sometimes she sticks her neck out, as with her attacks on the Police in the past. Sometimes, more often, she pulls her neck in. Today she exuded authority but didn’t say anything shocking. She said there must be no attempt to rejoin the EU, no general election until 2020 (very appealing to Tories in marginal seats), no moving Article 50 before the end of this year (EU leaders want it pretty much the moment the new PM takes over) and there should be a priority to avoid tax increases.

The Times/YouGov poll of Tory members put Mrs May comfortably ahead of Boris Johnson. We must now see what a Gove candidacy does to those numbers. There was no love lost between Theresa May and Michael Gove over the years. He once chastised her at the Cabinet table for flashing her ambitions in public. They’ve fallen out over security policy and more besides.

Now there’s a decent chance they are the two candidates that MPs vote to go to the country. The Home Secretary is hardly a selfie-magnet, not a street campaigner or known for generating warmth or having great voter reach.

Michael Gove has been seen by people paid by the Tory Party to measure such things as a repelling magnet for some voters. They see massive unrivalled appeal for core supporters but find him a genuine turn-off for floating voters.

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13 reader comments

  1. Christopher Murphy says:

    We are witnessing, on every side, the wonderfully twisted machinations of self-serving politics, a reality that’s certainly giving the fiction of ‘House of Cards’ a run for its money.

    Gove’s ‘last minute’ decision perhaps casts a new light on yesterday’s ‘accidentally shared’ email by Sarah Vine, which now looks like a perfectly timed distraction calculated to throw Team Boris off the scent.

    Never before have two parties imploded so spectacularly before our eyes. It would be entertaining if the future of our country wasn’t at stake.

  2. Reza Jalali says:

    Ambitions of politicians are drowning nation in quagmire of uncertainty instability. It is ironic that they did not tell election rate (specially Mr Gove and Jounson) that now soveridnty is postponed and will be decided by 27 foreign Nations. Unless of course there is economic conflict .

  3. Alan says:

    The article infers the PM to be needs to be a leader. How is that given the position is one of a parties public face? How many actually believe the PM makes decisions as a leader? The Tories may be successful if they actually came clean about the position and stopped trying to deceive us that the PM requires leadership ability.

  4. Supatron says:

    Come on Channel 4. Do you really believe the UK would be led by someone like BoJo?? Only real sensible, heavyweight contenders for the premiership are Gove or May. Given Gove was for LEAVE then if the Tories vote for May then I see no-progress as Cameron should have just stayed on. Gove can deal with post-Brexit and is a smart politician. In my view, the best the Tories have. He just needs to believe in himself a bit more. I think he is beginning to.

  5. Leo says:

    Time for damage control. Can we now start another campaign “Anyone but Gove”?
    I was actually hoping for Boris. He looked like he was going to sit on his hands for the next two years and never trigger article 50. Then we could vote those incompetents out on the next general elections, and fix this mess.

  6. Cath Smith says:

    I find him repugnant . Double dealing. Wouldn’t want him running the country, the scramble for power has begun. I voted to remain, not a Tory, but think Theresa May would be the best candidate, more solid.

  7. More Silent Majority says:

    boris has once more proven he should be PM by declining to run with all the other people coming out of the woodwork. gove has yet again proven he is a nasty piece of work unsuited for the job. the last person the people want is a ‘remainer’.

    c’mon boris, you CAN do it. we are behind you to support you, not stab you like some of the remainers.

    p.s. – JC – have you taken your anti-psychotic meds and resigned the labour leader job in a moment of clarity? probably not.

  8. Philip Sheldon says:

    Michael Gove should be ashamed of himself and were he to become the next leader of the Conservative Party then it would be yet another national tragedy.

  9. Pam Jacob says:

    Michael Gove must be aware that Brutus` assassination of Caesar led to civil wars and disruption until he himself was killed in battle by Mark Antony. Not a great example to follow.

  10. Andrew kindell says:

    I thought Gove came across well and if he were running for labour I would vote for him..I just don’t think he is good for conservatives..the people yes lol

  11. Lorna says:

    I could not support Michael Gove. He has been part of a campaign based on falsehood then stabbed his colleague in the back after promising to help him. Could we trust him to run the country and keep his promises. I think not. I believe Theresa May has the qualities we need as a country.

  12. Ida Roberts says:

    It was so right to Brexit and we shall see the rewards in a few years. There has been an earthquake but
    one that was voted for. New wonderful foundations can now be built and a fairness which we have not
    enjoyed for many years. Regarding Boris Johnson, he did an amazing job, whole heartedly. The betrayal
    by the Goves is unbelievable no one can trust that man again, do we want a betrayer as MP. He has
    betrayed him before the whole world. Boris, one day will soar to heights and HE WILL BE Prime Minister. Theresa May is the right person to take over from David Cameron at this moment in time. A woman, strong
    a thinker, and has an excellent record in Westminster. No she isn’t a Maggie Thatcher she is Mrs Theresa May. I.E.R.

  13. Ian Harris says:

    I am writing because Theresa May has worked at the Bank of England for 20 years and for 12 of these years she was the most Senior Financial Consultant in International Affairs in the Bank of England! Mrs Leadsome obvious does not know this otherwise they would not say Mrs. May was naïve at economics and foreign affairs.

    Theresa should have been Chancellor of the Exchequer on merit or she could have been the Conservative Party’s leader. However she worked hard and did better than any of her predecessors in the Home Office.

    It is about time we had an intelligent and experienced person as our Prime Minister.
    We can regain I am sure old friendships like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan with Mrs May. What is the matter with us now surely not the EU.

    Give the girl a chance!

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