The Scottish Mail on Sunday
It’s ‘go, go’ for team BoJo... but is Gove the backstabber behind him?
NEW PHOTO THAT SAYS: I’M SERIOUSLY READY TO LEAD ...REMEMBER HOW BITTER THINGS GOT LAST TIME, CHAPS?
THEY became sworn enemies after last year’s Tory leadership contest. But in the tumultuous aftermath of the General Election are Boris Johnson and Michael Gove about to come together once again?
Allies of the Foreign Secretary claim that his former rival has ‘reached out’ to him to pledge his support for any future bid to succeed Theresa May.
However, last night, sources close to the former Education Secretary denied he had made any such commitment, with one suggesting he was undecided about whether he could ‘put up with a complete **** ’ – Boris – to win an election.
The rival claims emerged as Mr Johnson’s backers insisted it was a question of ‘when, not if’ Mrs May will be forced to quit in the wake of last week’s disastrous General Election outcome.
The result has sparked frantic behind-the-scenes jostling by the main contenders to replace her, with Mr Johnson already billed as the frontrunner, spurred on by ambitious allies who have declared: ‘It’s go-go-go for Boris.’
They also boast that Mr Johnson has already received the private backing of several ‘senior Cabinet Ministers’ as well as rank-and-file Tory MPs.
But the flamboyant Foreign Secretary’s most serious rival is expected to be Brexit Secretary David Davis, with many MPs predicting a headto-head contest between the two Cabinet heavyweights as early as the end of the summer.
Mr Gove’s own prime ministerial ambitions imploded after he knifed Mr Johnson by abandoning the Boris campaign at the very last moment and running against him in last year’s leadership contest.
Sources said he has now been wrestling with whether to end their feud and back a Johnson bid for the top job amid speculation Mrs May could be forced out within weeks.
One ally close to Mr Gove resorted to aiming the C-word insult at Mr Johnson to describe the dilemma the former Education Secretary was facing. He said: ‘When it comes to Boris being leader, it’s the same question Michael and others faced last year: do we put up with a complete **** in order to win an election?
‘Despite his faults – and we all know there are quite a few of those – Boris may be what a very deflated Tory party needs right now. Michael is wondering if it comes to a contest, he needs to moderate his wellpublicised objections to Boris and back him this time round.’
Sources close to the Foreign Secretary tried to play down the leadership speculation last night, insisting he was concentrating his energies on his Government job.
But supporters insisted that Mr Gove had already decided to support Mr Johnson.
One said: ‘Gove’s already reached out to Boris – he will support him.’
The source made no secret of ‘BoJo’s’ readiness to launch a bid as soon as there was a vacancy.
He said: ‘Sadly, we all know it’s a question of when, not if, Mrs May has to step down. All that’s in doubt is the timetable – it could be by the Tory Party Conference in the autumn; it could be next year.’
The Boris backer suggested he was the ideal candidate to take on Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to connect with voters.
‘We need BoJo,’ he added. ‘We need a Brexiteer. We need somebody who can talk and connect with people like Jeremy Corbyn does.
‘We need someone who can make Britain believe in itself again.’
However, another Johnson friend suggested the Foreign Secretary was yet to commit himself to a fresh tilt at the top job. He said: ‘It is a classic Boris cocktail: ambition mixed with head-in-hands fear.
‘With a second General Election looming on the horizon, Boris would have to be pretty confident of doing what Theresa May couldn’t and winning that election clearly. No one wants to be the man who let Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.’
The friend added: ‘He is keen to let the dust settle a bit before he does anything.’
Conservative MPs are already plotting for the leadership contest on WhatsApp, the smartphone instant messaging service. Special groups have also been set up to identify who is likely to make the first move – and when.
Many Tory MPs expect Mrs May to stay as Prime Minister for the summer at least. If she has to announce her departure, they want a successor elected before the Tory party conference in the autumn.
MPs say they believe Mr Davis is also on manoeuvres – with some insisting that he, and not Mr John- son, is the ideal man to steer the party out of crisis.
One Remain-supporting MP, who said he had not spoken to Brexiteer Davis ‘for years’, revealed that they were struck by how friendly the Brexit Secretary had become since Thursday evening – implying that he was trying to build bridges with party colleagues who had been on the opposite side of the referendum debate.
Another said Mr Davis had made a ‘friendly’ phone call on Thursday evening, adding: ‘That is very out of character.’ Allies of former
‘A classic Boris cocktail – ambition mixed with fear’
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan also believe she is considering running for leader as the Remain candidate. Both Mr Davis and Mrs Morgan last night denied planning a leadership bid.
Pro-Brexit Tory MPs have urged colleagues to stop undermining Mrs May with talk of leadership challenges. In an article for The Mail on Sunday today, senior Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin says: ‘Only a tiny number of MPs are agitating against Mrs May.
‘They should stop feeding the headlines or start to feel the wrath of the rest of the Conservative Party.
‘Theresa will continue as Prime Minister, because she can and she must.’
Former Cabinet Minister Theresa Villiers said: ‘It is very important that the whole party rallies round Theresa May as the leader to take us through these vital Brexit negotiations.
‘Divisive internal party debates could disrupt efforts to deliver Brexit and make it more difficult to meet the demanding Article 50 timetable.
‘We now need to look ahead to the potential benefits of Brexit, and Theresa May is the right person to enable us to deliver them.’