Gove: Back me to beat Cor­byn

En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary takes on Boris John­son Liz Truss bows out Es­ther McVey calls for ‘clean break’ from EU

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Ed­ward Mal­nick SUN­DAY PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR and Anna Mikhailova

MICHAEL GOVE has de­clared that he is the best can­di­date to take on Jeremy Cor­byn, talk­ing up his own role in the Leave cam­paign and claim­ing he will seize con­trol of the ma­chin­ery of gov­ern­ment to de­liver Brexit.

The En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary is telling MPs that he is a “unity” can­di­date with the “vi­sion” and proven “grip” over gov­ern­ment de­part­ments that will en­able him to se­cure the UK’s de­par­ture from the EU and re­verse the Con­ser­va­tives’ de­cline in the polls.

Mr Gove, who sup­port­ers ex­pect to pub­licly an­nounce his can­di­dacy this even­ing, told MPs at a pri­vate din­ner last week that while Boris John­son was the main face of the Vote Leave cam­paign, he was en­trusted with some of the high­est pres­sure tele­vi­sion de­bates which would also fea­ture in a gen­eral elec­tion.

His pitch was also fo­cused on how he had run three gov­ern­ment de­part­ments since the Con­ser­va­tives came to power in 2010, con­trast­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing ed­u­ca­tion, jus­tice and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­forms with that of other can­di­dates. Mr John­son, whose 2016 lead­er­ship cam­paign ended when Mr Gove quit as cam­paign man­ager to launch his own bid, ran the For­eign Of­fice for two years, while Do­minic Raab, the for­mer Brexit Sec­re­tary, was in Cabi­net for four months.

Mr Gove would be­come the fourth Cabi­net min­is­ter to an­nounce a bid to suc­ceed Mrs May when she steps down as Tory leader on June 7, fol­low­ing sim­i­lar dec­la­ra­tions by Jeremy Hunt, Rory Ste­wart, and Matt Han­cock. In other de­vel­op­ments:

Liz Truss, the Chief Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, ruled her­self out of the con­test, telling The Sun­day Tele­graph that she had de­cided to back a can­di­date who sup­ported Brexit in 2016 and is pre­pared to cham­pion a “mod­ern Con­ser­va­tive free-mar­ket agenda”;

Es­ther McVey, the for­mer work and pen­sions sec­re­tary, who will stand, stated in this news­pa­per she would lead a “clean break” Brexit on Oct 31, un­less the EU ap­proaches the UK “to make a bet­ter of­fer” – a pledge likely to pile pres­sure on Mr John­son and Mr Raab, who de­clared his own bid on Satur­day night, amid a bat­tle for sup­port from Brex­i­teer Tories;

Ms Truss and Ms McVey, to­gether with Priti Pa­tel and Sir Gra­ham Brady, who are both now con­sid­er­ing stand­ing, all warn that the Con­ser­va­tives will be de­stroyed if the next leader fails to take the UK out of the EU by the end of Oc­to­ber, the lat­est date agreed with the EU;

Mr Hunt pitched him­self as the only can­di­date to have started their own busi­ness, which he sold for mil­lions of pounds. “I will use my ex­pe­ri­ence to ne­go­ti­ate the best pos­si­ble Brexit deal both in terms of exit and fu­ture trade re­la­tion­ship,” he told one MP;

Tens of thou­sands of new mem­bers have joined the Con­ser­va­tives in the last year, swelling the elec­torate that will choose Theresa May’s suc­ces­sor to 160,000.

Sup­port­ers ex­pect Mr Gove to de­clare his can­di­dacy dur­ing an ap­pear­ance at the Hay Fes­ti­val, where he will take part in a BBC Ra­dio 4 event hosted by Nick Robin­son.

Mr Gove laid out his pitch to about 10 MPs at a pri­vate din­ner on Tues­day at the home of Mel Stride, the new leader of the Com­mons, who is help­ing to drum up sup­port for his cam­paign.

He has been tar­get­ing pro-EU and Leaver MPs af­ter los­ing sup­port from many Brex­i­teers as a re­sult of back­ing Mrs May’s plans. One of those present said: “His pitch was that he could pro­vide unity, vi­sion and grip. He spoke of how he had run three gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and done ex­cit­ing things in all of them. It was a put-down to Raab and Boris.”

An­other MP said: “He didn’t crit­i­cise the other po­ten­tial can­di­dates but he was set­ting out his case hav­ing been a very ac­tive, re­form­ing Cabi­net mem­ber.” The MP added: “He said he was en­trusted to do the high pres­sure tele­vi­sion de­bates in the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign, as he would have to do in a gen­eral elec­tion”.

Mr Gove was said to have pointed out that the Vote Leave cam­paign en­trusted him with fac­ing grillings from mem­bers of the pub­lic such as in a Sky News de­bate chaired by Faisal Is­lam.

The com­ments ap­peared to counter ar­gu­ments that Mr John­son, who also served two terms as Mayor of Lon­don, is the party’s best cam­paigner and there­fore its best prospect at beat­ing Mr Cor­byn in a gen­eral elec­tion.

“I’ve also been part of a win­ning cam­paign team,” Mr Gove said. “It was very much a ‘I am the best Brex­i­teer pitch’,” ac­cord­ing to one of the MPs.

Mean­while four se­nior Tories to­day warn that the party risks oblit­er­a­tion if it fails to de­liver Brexit by the new

de­par­ture date of Oct 31. Writ­ing in The

Sun­day Tele­graph, Ms McVey, who was the first back­bencher to an­nounce a lead­er­ship bid, on May 9, states: “This coun­try needs a gen­uinely bold, new ap­proach.

“So we must now leave the EU on 31st Oc­to­ber with a clean break.

“If the EU wants to come back to the UK to make a bet­ter of­fer, I will lis­ten, but we must now all get ready to leave un­der World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion terms at the end of Oc­to­ber.”

She adds: “We must leave then. If not we would let down hard-work­ing peo­ple and our com­mu­ni­ties by fa­tally wound­ing the Con­ser­va­tive party and need­lessly putting it out of of­fice for a gen­er­a­tion.

“Nigel Farage may have caught the mood of the mo­ment, but only a strong and united Con­ser­va­tive Party can beat Jeremy Cor­byn.”

In an in­ter­view with this news­pa­per, Ms Truss states: “It is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal that we de­liver Brexit by Oc­to­ber 31. I think it’s ‘ game over’ for us if we don’t

do that.” She also calls for a rad­i­cal pro­gramme of tax cuts and dereg­u­la­tion to help boost the econ­omy in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and says the Con­ser­va­tives should cut the top rate of tax in any sce­nario.

Ms Truss states that only a can­di­date who sup­ported Brexit in 2016 can now “com­mand pub­lic trust”.

Mr Hunt, Mr Han­cock and Sa­jid Javid, the Home Sec­re­tary, who is also pre­par­ing a lead­er­ship bid, all backed Re­main in 2016. Also speak­ing to this news­pa­per, Ms Pa­tel says: “This isn’t a

‘We have to de­liver and do ex­actly what we said we would do. I don’t want to see my party dis­in­te­grate’

case of just com­ing up with an­other date post Oc­to­ber 31. The pub­lic as I see it, they want full-fat Brexit. We have to de­liver and do ex­actly what we said we would do. I don’t want to be a po­lit­i­cal ob­server, to see my party just dis­in­te­grate and not get back out there and fight for what we be­lieve in.”

Down­ing Street is pre­par­ing a se­ries of pol­icy an­nounce­ments on is­sues such as schools, men­tal health, and the “burn­ing in­jus­tices” Mrs May pledged to tackle when she be­came PM.

Ahead of his pub­lic ap­pear­ance this even­ing, MPs in­clud­ing Nick Gibb, the schools min­is­ter, and Bob Neill, the chair­man of the jus­tice com­mit­tee, backed Mr Gove on so­cial me­dia.

With­draw­ing from Mr John­son’s 2016 cam­paign, Mr Gove said he had “come, re­luc­tantly, to the con­clu­sion that Boris can­not pro­vide the lead­er­ship or build the team for the task ahead”.

One of the MPs at the din­ner said he re­peated those con­cerns while also “im­ply­ing that Boris had moved for­ward on that now”. In an in­ter­view last week, Mr Gove praised Mr John­son’s “flair, dis­tinc­tion and in­tel­lect”.

Michael Gove has pointed to his ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning three gov­ern­ment de­part­ments

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