Gove and May in race for Number 10
Johnson rules himself out of battle for Tory leadership
In a bombshell declaration, the highest profile figure in the EU leave campaign has decided he cannot unify the country.
“Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in parliament I have concluded that [the next Conservative leader] cannot be me,” he said in a speech at Westminster.
“My role will be to give every possible support to the next Conservative administration.”
His statement came as fellow Brexit leader and Justice Secretary Michael Gove joined Home Secretary Theresa May in the battle to succeed David Cameron.
Mr Gove and Ms May were tipped as contenders by Daily Business last Saturday and will be challenged by Former Foreign Secretary Liam Fox, Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and energy minister Andrea Leadsom.
Mr Gove and Ms May will be regarded as the most likely to succeed and they will go head to head for Number 10 as the winner will also become Prime Minister.
Ms May, 59, has held the Home Office brief since 2010 and is a former Tory party chairman. She says she can offer the party “strong leadership” and while backing the Remain campaign in the EU referendum, she accepts the Brexit vote.
This may be seen as a ruse to win over the eurosceptics, but it will be vital for the winning candidate to unite the party.
In her announcement she said there will be no early General Election and that Article 50, which will enable the UK to leave the EU, will not be triggered until an exit strategy is clear. That would suggest that it will be implemented until next year.
In another surprise, former Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle said she will not seek the Labour leadership for the time being.
Ms Eagle is one of 20 members of the shadow cabinet to have resigned following the sacking of shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn on Sunday morning.
MPs approved a motion of no confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday, but he continues to cling on, insisting he has the backing of the wider membership.
David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, today threw his support behind Ms May after declaring on Sunday that Mr Johnson could not unify the country.
Mr Crabb’s candidacy is likely to focus around his upbringing by a single parent on a council estate, which contrasts starkly with the former Etonian Mr Johnson.
Mr Gove had been expected to support Boris Johnson. An email from his wife Sarah Vine, urging him to seek assurances from Mr Johnson before backing his campaign, was leaked to the media.
It said: “One simple message: You MUST have SPECIFIC assurances from Boris OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support. The details can be worked out later on, but without that you have no leverage.
The email also suggestdd that Mr Gove may be vital to Mr Johnson getting the support of key tabloids, The Sun and the Daily Mail and notes that Paul Dacre at the Mail and Rupert Murdoch, proprietor of The Sun need to be influenced.
It said: “Crucially, the membership will not have the necessary reassurance to back Boris, neither will Dacre/Murdoch, who instinctively dislike Boris but trust your ability enough to support a Boris Gove ticket.
“Do not concede any ground. Be your stubborn best.