The shock news this morning is that the two top Brexiteers have parted company.
Michael Gove has announced that he is to run independently for the leadership, saying that he does not believe that Boris Johnson can provided the necessary leadership. And Gove can?
The apparent Robin Cook of today’s Tories differs from that template of the most able but inevitably ‘Number Two’ politician in his [Gove’s] utter and proven lack of integrity.
During the Brexit campaign, Gove serially and knowingly deceived their target electorate more – and more believably than did Johnson.
Gove’s action follows his wife’s [Daily Mail columnist, Sarah Vine] leaked email instructions to him yesterday – ‘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.’
Gove would seem to have been unable to get ‘SPECIFIC assurances’ from Johnson as to his [Gove’s] desired cabinet position as the spoils of war and so has decided to go f0r it himself – even though he has recently said that he doesn’t not see himself as a leader. Nor do we.
His wife’s email also told Gove: ‘Crucially, the membership will not have the necessary reassurance to back Boris, neither will (Daily Mail editor Paul) Dacre/(Rupert) Murdoch, who instinctively dislike Boris but trust your ability enough to support a Boris Gove ticket.’
The Gove decision to stand has clearly been a remarkably recent one. Former candidate for the Conservative leadership, David Davis, has must said that it was only 8pm last night that Gove’s assistant texted to ask him to attend this morning’s [11am] leadership launch by Boris Johnson.
So the Goves’ plan to usurp Johnson has come to fruition this morning.
Or was it only the Goves’ plan?
Sarah Vine’s instructions to her husband was ‘accidentally copied’ to ‘a member of the public’ – who passed it to Sky News.
Had the email – which was addressed to her husband and his two aides – been accidentally broadcast on a personal mailing list, that would be believable. But to have been accidentally copied in to ‘a member of the public’ looks ike a deliberate ploy?
Well, there’s is the frontline desire for personal gain in cabinet post advancement, with Gove’s desire to be Johnson’s Chancellor now – wisely – replaced by an apparent wish to be Foreign Secretary [a rather implausible role for a man who helped to drive Britain out of the European Union]; and to lead the Brexit negotiations with the EU.
But there are signs of a wider deal having been done, with Gove perhaps offered a central role in the Brexit negotiations in exchange for shafting Johnson. Gove is likely to take more votes from Brexiteer MPs than Johnson -meaning that Johnson may be denied the position of one of the final two candidates to go to the Conservative party membership – where Johnson is the clear favourite.
It was noticeable that in her campaign launch just now, Theresa May said that the Cabinet Office unit to lead these negotiations which David Cameron has now handed over to her to set up, that she would ensure that it was led by a senior politician who has supported the Brexit campaign.
Expect that politician to be Michael Gove – and her campaign Chair, Chris Grayling, now to be Foreign Secretary in the government May will form.
She is an impressively serious politician who will win this leadership contest.
She is also astute.
She appeared at her leadership campaign launch in a Black Watch suit, spoke of securing the British union and qualified herself as the daughter of a vicar and the relative of an army major. So – not posh and with a church and military provenance. How’s that for a full set of assurances?