Tory’s Gove stands as ‘Brex­e­cu­tioner’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

LON­DON: Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Michael Gove has pitched to be the prime min­is­ter to take Bri­tain out of the EU, a day after he de­stroyed the chances of an­other fron­trun­ner in what some col­leagues called an act of treach­ery.

Gove’s de­ci­sion on Thurs­day to throw his hat in the ring to re­place David Cameron, who is stand­ing down after Bri­tons voted to leave the EU last week, up­turned Bri­tish pol­i­tics after he had pre­vi­ously said he would back Boris John­son.

His com­ment that John­son, with whom he had cam­paigned across the coun­try to se­cure the vote for Brexit, was not fit to lead ef­fec­tively ended the pop­u­lar for­mer Lon­don mayor’s hopes.

Five can­di­dates are now hop­ing to re­place Cameron, with in­te­rior min­is­ter Theresa May the favourite with book­mak­ers.

Con­ser­va­tive Party MPs will whit­tle the field down to two, be­fore a fi­nal de­ci­sion is made by party mem­bers with the new leader in place in early Septem­ber.

The de­ci­sion to quit the EU has cost Bri­tain its top credit rat­ing, pushed the pound to its low­est level against the dol­lar since the mid-1980s and wiped a record $3 tril­lion (R43.7) tril­lion off global shares. EU lead­ers are scram­bling to pre­vent fur­ther un­rav­el­ling of a bloc that helped guar­an­tee peace in post-war Europe.

“I have to say I never thought I’d ever be in this po­si­tion. I did not want it, in­deed I did al­most ev­ery­thing not to be a can­di­date for the lead­er­ship of this party,” Gove said as he launched his cam­paign.

Col­leagues in the Con­ser­va­tive Party who backed John­son have poured op­po­brium on Gove.

John­son him­self hinted he saw it as trea­son, hid­ing a quote from Shake­speare’s play about po­lit­i­cal mur­der, Julius Caesar, in his speech an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion not to stand on Thurs­day.

Bri­tain’s big­gest-sell­ing tabloid the Sun said John­son had been “Brex­e­cuted”.

“There is a very deep pit re­served in Hell for such as he. #Gove”, Con­ser­va­tive law­maker Jake Berry wrote on Twit­ter in a mes­sage he later deleted.

At­tempt­ing to reach out to his party, Gove said he was driven by con­vic­tion and not am­bi­tion, and he had con­cluded John­son was not the right man for the top job.

“I was so very re­luc­tant be­cause I know my lim­i­ta­tions. What­ever charisma is I don’t have it,” he said. “What­ever glam­our may be, I don’t think any­one could ever as­so­ciate me with it.”

As one of the lead­ing Leave cam­paign­ers, Gove said the next prime min­is­ter should be some­one who sup­ported ex­it­ing the EU, a swipe at May who, like Cameron, was in the Re­main camp.

May now says she will im­ple­ment the vot­ers’ will and ne­go­ti­ate to leave: “Brexit means Brexit,” she said at the launch of her own bid on Thurs­day.

A party stal­wart whose six years in charge of the law-an­dorder port­fo­lio is the long­est ten­ure for a cen­tury in what is of­ten de­scribed as the trick­i­est cab­i­net job, May has swiftly emerged as the favourite in a field with­out John­son. Bri­tain’s Daily Mail, a strong voice for Brexit, backed her yes­ter­day.

The other three are the pen­sions sec­re­tary, a right-wing for­mer de­fence sec­re­tary and a ju­nior min­is­ter in the en­ergy de­part­ment.

Gove said if he were leader, he wanted ex­ten­sive pre­lim­i­nary talks be­fore Bri­tain in­voked ar­ti­cle 50, the for­mal process for leav­ing the EU, and did not ex­pect this to oc­cur be­fore the end of the year.

He also promised to cut im­mi­gra­tion with the in­tro­duc­tion of a points sys­tem and to end free move­ment of peo­ple from EU coun­tries. Euro­pean lead­ers say Bri­tain must re­tain free move­ment if it wants ac­cess to the EU sin­gle mar­ket.

Along­side the bat­tle to lead the Con­ser­va­tive Party, the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party has also turned on it­self, with most of its MPs hav­ing voted to with­draw sup­port for party leader Jeremy Cor­byn, a left­winger.

Party op­po­nents ac­cuse him of lead­ing a half-hearted cam­paign to stay in the EU, and say he is too weak to win a gen­eral elec­tion if the new Con­ser­va­tive leader’s gov­ern­ment falls. He says he draws his man­date from grass­roots ac­tivists and will not step aside.

The po­lit­i­cal vac­uum in both ma­jor par­ties has added to the chaos at a time when Bri­tain is fac­ing its big­gest con­sti­tu­tional change since its em­pire dis­solved in the decades after World War II. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Bri­tain’s Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Michael Gove.

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