The ever-loyal Michael Gove was up to his old tricks praising the ‘brilliant’ Prime Minister Theresa May, while also raising the prospect of a Tory leadership contest – pointedly refusing to rule himself out of the race.
During a BBC Radio 4 interview, Gove twice refused to rule himself out of a future leadership bid, obfuscating and referring to himself in the third person when pressed: “He’s the environment secretary committed making sure today’s 25-year environment plan commands support from all those who we need to make our country clearer and greener.”
As well as May, two other of the environment secretary’s colleagues should watch out after Conservative Home contributor Andrew Gimson wrote that Gove believes current Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, 41, and Education Secretary Damian Hinds, 48, will battle it out in the next Tory leadership contest. Gove notoriously endorsed now-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in the 2016 contest, before publicly denouncing his former ally’s leadership bid on national television.
Gimson said that Gove “foresees a day when Hinds might contest the Conservative Party leadership against Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary.”
“It would, Gove says, be a contest between two northern, state-school candidates, with Williamson the ‘tough and gritty’ defender of a ‘pur et dur’ [hardline] conservatism, while Hinds represents a form of conservatism ‘in which the Catholic Church has a part to play and authority is tempered with mercy,’” Gimson wrote.
Gove has seemingly forgotten the vicious backlash that May received after appointing Williamson to his defense brief. The appointment was greeted with widespread criticism when anonymous Tory MPs briefed that the move smacked of ‘nepotism.’ May gave the prominent cabinet position to Williamson, who had never held a ministerial role but was crucial in her own ascendency to Downing Street.
It comes as Gove dodged claims by Boris Johnson’s sister, Rachel, that he stabbed her brother “back and front” in the 2016 leadership contest. Rachel Johnson, an editor and journalist, was speaking on the Channel 5 show ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ when she made the accusations.
“He withdrew at the last minute because Gove got up and said he was standing himself,” she said. “At this point, the 100 or so MPs who said they would support my brother in a leadership contest, I think 60 of them disappeared.”
Speaking on today’s Good Morning Britain, Gove responded to the claims saying: “I love Celebrity Big Brother and I think Rachel is a great contestant, and she’s one of many good contestants, so I hope people phone and vote to keep her in the house.”
When asked if he regretted the decision to become candidate himself, Gove responded:“Well, I always look forward not back, I think the most important thing in politics is [to] learn from your mistakes but also concentrate on making a difference, and what we’re doing today.”