Michael Gove admitted today that his decision to shaft Boris Johnson during the 2016 Tory leadership contest had almost terminally damaged his career, likening his decision to run to a bomb going off in his hands.
The current Housing Secretary stunned Westminster five years ago when he announced a leadership bid to replace David Cameron while running Boris Johnson’s campaign to enter No10.
The two men had worked side-by-side on the Vote Leave campaign that helped win the EU referendum for Brexiteers and was the high watermark in a personal rivalry between the two men going back to their university days.
And today, with the benefit of hindsight Mr Gove admitted it had been ‘political suicide’ to run against the current PM.
Today, with the benefit of hindsight Mr Gove admitted it had been ‘political suicide’ to run against the current PM five years ago
The two men had worked side-by-side on the Vote Leave campaign that helped win the EU referendum for Brexiteers
Back in June 2016 Mr Johnson’s (pictured today) allies warned there was a ‘deep pit in Hell’ waiting for Gove after the then Justice Secretary stabbed his fellow Brexit champion in the back, saying he was not up to being Prime Minister.
He made the remark in a Commons session about planning reforms, which are being reviewed amid cricitism from Tory backbenchers.
Shadow planning minister Ruth Cadbury said she had not ‘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.’
Back in June 2016 Mr Johnson’s allies warned there was a ‘deep pit in Hell’ waiting for Gove after the then Justice Secretary stabbed his fellow Brexit champion in the back, saying he was not up to being Prime Minister.
Mr Gove delivered a brutal verdict on Mr Johnson’s capabilities and questioned whether his ‘heart and soul’ were in taking the UK out of the EU, effectively ending his hopes of succeeding David Cameron, as he announced his own bid for Downing Street.
Damning his frenemy with faint praise, Mr Gove said he had ‘enjoyed working with him’ during the referendum campaign. But he said: ‘I realised in the last few days that Boris isn’t capable of building that team and providing that unity.
‘And so I came reluctantly but firmly to the conclusion that as someone who had argued from the beginning that we should leave the European Union and as someone who wanted ensure that a bold, positive vision for our future was implemented, that I had to stand for leadership of the Conservative party.’
The two again faced-off against each other in 2019, when they both ran to succeed Mrs May. This time Mr Johnson was victorious, but kept his rival in Government, moving him from Environment Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He replaced Robert Kenrick at Housing at the last reshuffle, with additional powers to mastermind the levelling-up agenda.