PM's old cabinet foe turns leading loyalist as plotting starts
But could Michael Gove have an ulterior motive?
News of a backbench plot to force Theresa May to stand down has led to a robust defence of the prime minister from an old foe.
Michael Gove had a spectacular bust-up with May back in 2014, when the pair clashed over allegations of a hard line Muslim plot in some Birmingham schools.
The briefing war resulted in May, then home secretary, losing her top special adviser. Meanwhile Gove, then education secretary, had to apologise to David Cameron for overshadowing the Queen’s Speech.
But three years later, Gove has emerged as key loyalist to the prime minister as former Tory chairman Grant Shapps leads the efforts to oust her.
Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the solution to the leadership crisis is not “to bury our heads in the sand” and claimed to have the support of about 30 MPs including five former cabinet ministers.
But Gove, also appeared on the programme to lend his support to May. The environment secretary said: “No one is burying their heads in the sand. What we’re doing is concentrating on delivering and governing effectively.”
He added: “The truth is the overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs, the truth is the entirety of the cabinet, the truth is the overwhelming majority of people want the prime minister to concentrate on doing the job that 14 million people elected her to do earlier this year.”
What is Gove up to? Friendly Tory MPs who want to keep the prime minister in place say that the environment secretary is being a team player. He is finally putting the party - and the country - first, they suggest. And doing his best to ensure that Brexit plans do not get derailed or watered down.
More cynical Tories suggest that Gove hopes to be foreign secretary once Boris Johnson has finally been sacked.