Gove had lost patience with Johnson in the days after the shock Brexit vote, according to a person familiar with the justice secretary’s thinking, speaking on condition of anonymity. Efforts to get him to win over other key players in the Tory Party failed, leading to a much wider field than expected. Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom was among those that Gove had hoped Johnson could win to his team. After meeting Johnson, she decided to run against him.
“We were striving and struggling not just for a dream ticket, but a dream team,” Raab told the BBC. “Putting together a really strong unifying team was an absolute condition. When that fell away, I think that Michael felt things had changed.”
Gove’s announcement came just as Home Secretary Theresa May was preparing her own 9:30 a.m. launch. It could not have been timed better for her. While the former allies were knifing each other, unable to say what leaving the EU was going to look like, May appeared to announce, in the words of Johnson’s biographer Andrew Gimson, that here was “the grown-up candidate.”
May, who supported Cameron’s campaign to stay in the EU, had a plan. Her speech showed commitment to follow the vox populi. She said that there would be no second referendum, no early election, and she sounded like she meant it. She made serious points at Johnson’s expense, saying the country needed “strong leadership and a clear sense of direction,” and she made jokes at Johnson’s expense: “The last time he did a negotiation with the Germans, he came back with three nearly new water cannon.” Weighty, firm, funny -- the many male Tory lawmakers in the room could have been forgiven for thinking of a previous Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher.
There are plenty of surprises in this Brexit drama of rapidly changing events. I thought Boris Johnson could have won but as the leader of Brexit he might have had a difficult time healing the Conservative rift. Politics within the Party can be ruthless but I take the many candidates for PM as a healthy sign.
Theresa May is the current frontrunner and a likely unifier, so there would be no need for an early general election.Back to top