Michael Gove goes for a non denial-denial as Tory MPs jostle for leader
Watch: Gove could only say it was 'extreeeemely unlikely' that he would stand.
The consensus in Westminster in the summer of 2016 was the Michael Gove’s political career had imploded, with pals of Boris Johnson lining up to accuse him of stabbing their man in the back.
"There is a very deep pit reserved in Hell for such as he," tweeted one Johnson’s chief cheerleaders, Tory MP Jake Berry.
Earlier this year, respected political hacks such as Andrew Grice decided that Gove had made a “remarkable political comeback”. But has he gone far enough to earn a second stab at being Tory leader?
On the Today programme, the environment secretary said it was "extremely unlikely" that he would be in the position to run go for leadership once again.
As presenter Martha Carney accurately noted: “That’s not quite a denial is is?”
Gove then went very marginally further, saying it was “"extreeeemely unlikely" that he would stand. But he might consider it if he got backing from both the man who he stabbed in back in 2016 and one of the cabinet’s biggest Brexit sceptics:
"You never know, if Boris Johnson nominated me for the leadership, and Philip Hammond seconded, I might think again."
And then he declared that “talk about the leadership is a distraction”.
Perhaps he should tell that to born-again Brexiteer Sajid Javid, who is linking up with Andrea Leadsom in what looks suspiciously like the first stirrings of the Javid-Leadsom Tory leadership 'dream ticket'. Since then, a cabinet minister has revealed that "Sajid is tapping us up. He is very direct - but he’s not offering jobs yet, which wouldn’t be a good look".
Or perhaps Gove should have a word with his fellow Brexiteer Tory MPs who are busy fuelling speculation that they might join the race to become leader and prime minister. Top of the list would be Johnson and Dominic Raab, both of whom declined to rule out running for leader this weekend. And even Esther McVey is ready to serve the nation...