Nick Boles gets fed up with questions about Michael Gove’s leadership bid
Watch: The Tory MP threatened to walk off the BBC’s Daily Politics.
Michael Gove’s closest political ally has repeatedly refused to speak about Conservative Party’s bloody leadership battle – and even threatened to walk off a TV set.
Nick Boles was the campaign manager for Michael Gove’s surprise Tory leadership bid in the summer.
Gove’s shock announcement that he wanted to be leader led to a spectacular falling out with Boris Johnson, with accusations of treachery levelled at the former justice secretary. One of Johnson's allies, Jake Berry, even said in the aftermath that there was a “deep pit in hell” waiting for Gove.
Appearing on the BBC’s Daily Politics show, Boles described Gove as “my closest friend in life as in politics”. But he would not say what motivated Gove to run against Johnson, who he had previously pledged to back for the leadership.
"It's all water under the bridge, and we have all got on with it,” he said.
The former skills minister did say he had no regrets about sending text messages to Tory MPs asking them to vote tactically for Gove. In the texts sent in the summer, Boles urged MPs to take action to stop “seriously frightening” Andrea Leadsom from making it into the final two.
But Boles was notably reluctant to say anything else on the subject of Gove’s doomed leadership bid..
As BBC presenter Jo Coburn pressed on, he stood firm:
“I’m sorry Jo, I am not going to go into all those details, it’s not the basis you asked me to come on to the show and I am not willing to discuss it any further,” he said.
“You asked me to talk about Brexit. I am very happy to discuss that. I am not happy to disinter the leadership election which his long past.”
Eventually Boles issued his ultimatum: “If you want me to stay on the program we are going to have to move on.”
Boles was also keen to stress that both he and Gove were big fans of Theresa May.
“Absolutely, he’s my closest friend in life as in politics and both of use share genuine enthusiasm for the direction in which Theresa May is taking the government,” he said.
But he did admit that the EU referendum had put strain on the relationships among top Tories.
Boles, a member of the so-called ‘Notting Hill set’ and Remain supporter, compared the rifts in the Conservative party caused by Brexit to the split allegiances during the Spanish Civil War.
He said: “Obviously it has caused strain on relationships –not just within that group but in families and in friendship groups.
“It’s been an extraordinary issue in our times. For the first time in my life, I understand what people say about the Spanish Civil War, the way it actually separated, divided whole communities and families and this has come close to that. But I hope that as we now move away from it people come back together.”