Boris Johnson and Michael Gove in mourning mode at post-Brexit ‘funeral’
The leading Brexiteers held back from declaring a joint leadership ticket.... for now.
Boris Johnson has described David Cameron as "one of the most extraordinary politicians of our age" as he hopes to step into his shoes.
The leading Brexit campaigner and frontrunner to succeed Cameron as Tory leader claimed he was "sad" to hear of Cameron’s decision to resign after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
At a Vote Leave press conference on Friday morning, he did not take questions and made no comment about his leadership ambitions. But he suggested he wanted to pick up Cameron’s mantle of moderate Conservativism as he lauded the prime minister’s approach to the job.
"I have known David Cameron for a very long time... A brave and principled man, who has given superb leadership of his party and his country for many years. Delivering one nation Conservative government, making this country the most dynamic economy in Europe and with his own brand of compassionate Conservative that rightly earned his party the first majority government for decades."
The former London mayor ditched the jokes and instead opted for a statesmanlike tones as he sought to reassure "young people who may feel that this decision involves somehow pulling up the drawbridge because I think the very opposite is true".
After spending many weeks campaigning on the same side as Nigel Farage, Johnson also made what looked a late application for a divorce from the Ukip leader.
He said the UK would be a "powerful, liberal, humane and extraordinary force for good in the world" and he hoped that Brexit would "take the wind out of the sails of the extremists and those who would play politics with immigration".
Fellow Brexit campaigner Michael Gove struck an even more sombre tone than Johnson as he spoke about the political demise of his close friend – prompting Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and other sceptical Twitter users to declare that the pair looked as though they were at a funeral.
Gove said the prime minister had “led this country with courage, dignity and grace” and that “he deserves to be remembered as a great prime minister”.
The justice secretary has always strongly denied he wants the top job but Tory activists have repeatedly made it clear they won't take no for an answer.