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Media’s big guns launch Gove into Tory leadership fight

The most interesting person is UK politics isn’t Boris Johnson – still less Jeremy Corbyn – but Michael Gove, the former education secretary and friend of David Cameron who deserted Cameron to support the Brexit cause in the EU Referendum.

Now Gove, fresh from knifing Cameron in the back, has stabbed Johnson in the front, entering the Tory leadership contest, observing in the process that his Brexit co-campaigner Boris isn’t up to it.

As I understand it, two MPs are chosen to contest the leadership in a vote open to all Tory party members. So anything could happen – think Iain Duncan Smith. But hunky Duncy, the self-styled ‘Quiet Man,’ only became leader of the Tory party in opposition (briefly), not bloody prime minister.

Gove, a former Times journalist, is famously impractical and, er, odd. Apparently, when told of the Brexit result last Friday morning, he said: “I suppose I’d better get up then.” It’s pretty clear that neither he nor Johnson thought they’d win and don’t have a clue what to do next. But Gove, unlike Johnson, actually believes in a Britain completely detached from Europe. Which is pretty terrifying for all those younger people who voted to stay in and companies praying for some halfway house deal to be stitched together.

Gove’s wife is Sarah Vine (both below), a noisy Daily Mail columnist. All the politicos are speculating this morning that Gove, who has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to be and isn’t qualified to be prime minister (a rare sensible judgement on his part) has been propelled into this because Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Sun and The Times, and Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, don’t fancy Johnson, who has too much previous of one sort or another.
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Cameron moved Gove from the Education Department to chief whip because he had driven teachers and others in education nuts with his crazy initiatives, most notably so-called ‘free’ schools which cause consternation and chaos in equal measure. His political adviser Dominic Cummings orchestrated the Brexit campaign and the prospect of the crazy Cummings padding around No. 10 is enough to make the Civil Service resign en masse. David Cameron has compared Gove to a Maoist in terms of his penchant for permanent revolution.

It may never happen, of course. Johnson supporters will fight back and Theresa May looks even more of a shoo-in for one of the places on the final ballot paper. But with Murdoch and Dacre behind him Gove will take some stopping and may well appeal more to Tory backswoods folk than the un-charismatic May (who, I believe, is a woman too).

If Sir Martin Sorrell and co. thought they were in the shit last Friday, they know they are now.

Update
As we now know Michael Gove’s last minute intervention in the Tory leadership race – he apparently made up his mind at midnight on Wednesday after a party where he seemed at one with Johnson – has seen off Johnson’s candidature. But the manner of his intervention has displeased the Daily Mail, which is backing Theresa May. Those Tories – they’re like cats in a sack.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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