Michael Gove sets out battle lines for duel with Theresa May
The justice secretary stressed his track record of reform - and said he was lacking in 'charisma' and 'glamour'.
Michael Gove has stressed his radical reforming credentials as he gears up for a Tory leadership battle with Theresa May.
With May seen by many as consolidator and a safe pair of hands, Gove reached for an implicit contrast to the home secretary - by pitching himself as “the change candidate”.
The justice secretary also made a clear appeal to the eurosceptic Tory electorate as he emphasised that – unlike the home secretary - he had helped to lead the Brexit campaign and that he had always wanted to leave the European Union.
In an echo of Tony Blair in 1997, Gove’s speech mentioned the word ‘change’ a whopping 28 times.
The justice secretary stated: “This country voted for change – and I am going to deliver it.
“I’m the candidate for leader who changed our education system. I’m the candidate for leader who is changing our prisons and our justice system. I’m the candidate for leader who led the case for change in this referendum campaign.
“And the country voted for change. The country voted for no more politics as usual. No more business as usual.
“I am the candidate for change.”
On the question of Brexit, Gove stated: “I did not duck for cover, I did not hedge or hesitate to say what I believed. I made clear I believed in change, I believed in leaving the European Union.”
In the question and answer session after the speech, he said that May's decision not to campaign for Brexit marked “a fundamental division of principle between the two of us”.
Gove also raised eyebrows – and prompted incredulity and derision from allies of Boris Johnson – when he said was not ambitious and claimed that he did everything he could to avoid having to stand for leader.
“I did not want it, indeed I did almost everything not be a candidate for the leadership of this party,” he insisted.
After May yesterday stressed she was not a “showy politician”, Gove then attempted to neutralise his leadership rival's advantage in this area.
He said: “I was so very reluctant because I know my limitations. Whatever charisma is I don’t have it, whatever glamour may be I don’t think anyone could ever associate me with it.”
Friends and family of Johnson are furious with Gove for reneging on a deal with their man. Speaking yesterday’s, the former mayor’s father Stanley Johnson said that three words come to mind when he thinks about Michael Gove: 'Et tu, Brute?'
Taking questions from journalists, Gove denied stabbing Johnson in the back. But he also said it was important for the next leader of the Tory party to be a ruthless assassin.
Or as the justice secretary put it: “Are they able to put personal considerations aside to do what’s right?”