Michael Gove admits running against Boris Johnson in 2016 was ‘political suicide’

·2-min read
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (right) Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (right) Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)

Michael Gove has admitted that running against current Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2016’s doomed leadership bid was like an “unexploded bomb going off in my own hands.”

The Communities Secretary shocked the nation when he dramatically quit Mr Johnson’s campaign to replace David Cameron and announced he would stand himself.

The move forced Mr Johnson to pull out paving the way for Theresa May to be crowned as Prime Minister.

The two senior Tories, who were both on the Vote Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum, have since worked together in Mr Johnson’s administration.

Speaking in the Commons, shadow planning minister Ruth Cadbury sought assurances that Mr Gove was not planning to revive controversial planning reforms.

She welcomed his replies “saying effectively that the Government’s developers’ charter is being reviewed and I haven’t seen (him) torpedo something so effectively since he sunk the Prime Minister’s leadership in 2016”.

Responding, Mr Gove joked: “Well, I’m grateful to (her) for taking me back to the halcyon days of 2016.

“It wasn’t so much a torpedo being launched as an unexploded bomb going off in my own hands.

“But as the former member for Kensington and Chelsea Sir Malcolm Rifkind pointed out, one of the things about committing political suicide is that you always live to regret it.

“On her broader point, I think it’s only fair to say that the planning white paper was mischaracterised by many.

“There is so much that is good in it but it’s also important that we listen to concerns that were expressed in order to ensure that an already powerful and compelling suite of proposals is even more effective.”

“Et tu, Brute?” was the Shakespearean quotation of choice for the current PM’s father Stanley Johnson at the time.

BBC presenter Martha Kearney pressed Stanley Johnson asking him whether his son had been “stabbed by Michael Gove”.

He said: “Et tu, Brute is what I’d say. I don’t think [Gove] is called Brutus but you never know.”

Having played a key role in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Gove announced his split from his journalist wife Sarah Vine in July after nearly two decades of marriage.

Despite the years of turbulence, he remains a colleague who Mr Johnson very much wants to keep close and has tasked him with being responsible for the success or failure of the Government’s post-Covid agenda.

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