Michael Gove has announced that, as in 2016, he will contest the Tory leadership election against, among others, his key ally in the Brexit campaign, Boris Johnson.
The Environment Secretary — who backed Theresa May and her EU-approved withdrawal treaty to the end — said: “I can confirm that I will be putting my name forward to be prime minister of this country. I believe that I’m ready to unite the Conservative and Unionist Party, ready to deliver Brexit, and ready to lead this great country.”
Mr Gove’s announcement echoes of his actions in 2016, when he was believed to be supporting his Vote Leave ally Boris Johnson for the Tory leadership but opted to run himself at the eleventh hour.
Mr Gove said at the time that he “reluctantly, but firmly” decided that he should stand against Mr Johnson. This ultimately split the Leave vote among Tory MPs, causing both to crash out of the race in its early stages — with Gove panned widely for what was seen as his betrayal of Mr Johnson.
Delingpole: Gove’s Greenery – Yet Another Reason Not to Vote Conservative https://t.co/i9VHK12Kdl
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 1, 2019
The declaration of Mr Gove’s candidacy makes him the eighth MP currently declared to be running for the Tory leadership in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation announcement.
The other candidates currently running are former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, former Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.
Mr Johnson is currently seen as the favourite and the candidate to beat in the election. Mr Gove sits in third place, behind Mr Johnson and Mr Raab, according to odds by the bookmaker William Hill.
Despite Mrs May only announcing her intention to resign two days ago, and her actual resignation not taking place until June 7th, the battle lines in the leadership contest are already being drawn with Brexit, unsurprisingly, the key issue.
Several candidates including Mr Johnson has announced that they would be prepared to leave the EU with a No Deal Brexit, while others, such as Remain-voting Mr Stewart, have said they would not serve under a leader who pursued such a move.
Q: Rory Stewart has said that he definitely wouldn’t serve under Boris Johnson, where do you stand?
A: People who say things like that are really stupid. You have a chance to vote, you then let others have a chance to vote, then you unite around whoever wins it – IDS pic.twitter.com/6xuNW4bhIz
— #StandUp4Brexit (@StandUp4Brexit) May 25, 2019
Statements from other candidates included Mr Raab saying the British government must show an “unflinching resolve to leave” with or without a deal.
Remain-voting Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt laid out his credentials for passing Brexit through the Commons by claiming that doing deals was his “bread and butter”.
Tory candidates have until the week commencing 10th June to announce their intention to stand and require the backing of at least two fellow MPs. The Tory parliamentary party will then whittle the candidates down to a final two, who should be put to the membership as a whole to elect — although this did not happen when Theresa May was elevated to the leadership.
Conservative Party leadership hopeful Dominic Raab says that if there is a no deal #Brexit then the UK will only pay the EU a “fraction” of the £39 billion divorce bill #Marr https://t.co/nM4yerl2mP pic.twitter.com/KCRQsvvT31
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 26, 2019