Michael Gove, one of the masterminds behind the Brexit campaign, unexpectedly announced today (June 30) that he will run for prime minister. After David Cameron said he would quit following the vote to leave the EU, rivals in his Conservative Party are throwing their hats in the ring, to stand for selection by party members in September.
Gove’s leadership challenge is noteworthy because, until today, he was thought to support Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, most prominent member of the “leave” campaign, and long-time frontrunner to become the next prime minister. But Gove’s about-turn seems to have forced Johnson, who is erratic at the best of times, to give up. That means Gove, who broke from friend and former ally Cameron over Brexit, has also double-crossed fellow Brexiteer Johnson, making him a “Double Brutus.”
Gove, who currently serves as justice minister, will try to corner the pro-Brexit vote among Conservative Party members. The thing is, Gove has repeatedly gone on record saying that he isn’t fit to be prime minister. Plenty of people play down their ambitions, but Gove has been so emphatic for so long that even Britain’s cynical press believed him. Until today!
March 2012: “Constitutionally incapable”
“I’m constitutionally incapable of it. There’s a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don’t have it. There’s an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it’s better not to try.”
August 2012: Signed in blood
On Sky News, he went as far as to say he’d “sign a piece of parchment in my own blood saying that I don’t want to be prime minister.”
October 2012: “I’m not equipped”
On the BBC, he said, unequivocally, “I could not be prime minister, I’m not equipped to be prime minister, I don’t want to be prime minister.”
May 2016: “I don’t want to do it”
So, is Mr Gove interested in becoming prime minister?
He is unequivocal. “No I’m not. There…I don’t want to do it and there are people who are far better equipped than me to do it.
“And there are people who have advocated Leave and people who have advocated Remain who are far better than me to do it.”
June 3, 2016: “Count me out”
There are lots of talented people who could be prime minister, but count me out … Whatever poster you put up, do not put up one of me!
June 18, 2016: “You need to be an exceptional person”
Back to the Daily Telegraph:
“In order to be prime minister of this country, you need to be an exceptional person. David Cameron is an exceptional person with exceptional talents and he does the job well… I don’t think I have got that exceptional level of ability required for the job.”
June 30, 2016: “I do not want to be prime minister”
Most remarkably, Gove emphasized his previous rejections of the top job in his statement announcing his candidacy for the top job:
I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be Prime Minister. That has always been my view. But events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me.
What gives? “I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead,” Gove said. After campaigning tirelessly alongside him for the UK to leave the EU, this is an abrupt realization. The first signs of a break came yesterday via a strange email from his wife, apparently sent in error to somebody else and promptly leaked. It hinted at disagreements between Gove and Johnson about how to proceed after winning the Brexit referendum.
“Do not concede any ground,” she wrote. “Be your stubborn best.” But don’t, apparently, be so stubborn that you stick to your previous positions.