Michael Gove rules out running for Tory leadership against Boris Johnson


Michael Gove has ruled out running against Boris Johnson again as a potential new Conservative party leader, as he admitted making a “mistake” by doing so in 2016.

The levelling up secretary said he believed the prime minister was “doing a good job” after more than 40% of Tory MPs called on him to quit.

Anger at Johnson has spread across the party in recent months, with backbenchers and ministers frustrated at the string of scandals that has dogged the government, culminating in the Partygate saga. However, many are also frustrated on policy grounds and believe Johnson is not using his 80-strong majority in the House of Commons to pursue Conservative policies and lower taxes.

Cabinet ministers have rallied around Johnson. Asked whether he had confidence in the prime minister, Gove told Sky News: “Enthusiastically, yes.”

Six years after betraying Johnson by ditching plans to run his leadership campaign and instead launching his own in the 2016 race that ensued when David Cameron stepped down after the Brexit referendum, Gove admitted on Thursday that he made a “mistake”.

He told Sky News: “If you’ve been in politics for a little while, as I have been, then there are always mistakes that you can look back on. But I think the prime minister is doing a good job.”

Questioned on whether he would run against Johnson as a potential new leader, Gove said emphatically: “Oh God, no.”

He added: “I can understand why some of my MP colleagues have concerns and I think it’s important that over the course of the next two years that we demonstrate that the government is focused on delivering for the people across the United Kingdom.”

Gove previously told rebellious colleagues to “focus on the people’s priorities” and called on them to “carry out what we were elected to deliver – levelling up, cutting crime, securing the benefits of Brexit and improving public services”.

Johnson was bullish about his political future earlier this week, insisting his premiership had “barely begun” and claiming he had “picked up political opponents all over the place” because the government was achieving “some very big and very remarkable things”.

He said during prime minister’s questions: “Absolutely nothing and no one … is going to stop us from getting on with delivering for the British people.”

Gove ran for the Conservative leadership against Johnson again in 2019 and got to the penultimate round – narrowly beaten to the runoff by Jeremy Hunt. He saw off competition from Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey.

When Johnson won the keys to No 10, Gove was handed a job as Cabinet Office minister before becoming levelling up secretary in September 2021.

Gove and his wife of 20 years, the columnist Sarah Vine, announced last summer they were divorcing after “drifting apart”.

Source: The Guardian