Gove launches Tory leadership bid with vow to boost NHS and cut immigration
Michael Gove has promised to spend an extra £100 million on the NHS and cut immigration by blocking EU free movement if he becomes prime minister.
Launching his Tory leadership campaign today, the Justice Secretary admitted he was a reluctant candidate, deciding to stand at the last minute after concluding Boris Johnson could not take the UK down the “path of change” opened up by Brexit.
Mr Gove suggested the former mayor of London would have “muddled through” in an attempt to make the best of Britain’s exit from the European Union rather than embrace the opportunities afforded by Brexit.
However, Mr Gove found himself under attack from some of his colleagues who accused him of having “betrayed” Mr Johnson and of “treachery”.
Business minister Anna Soubry said Mr Gove had “behaved appallingly” in pledging his support for Boris Johnson and then withdrawing it at the last minute.
Whoever is elected Conservative leader will succeed David Cameron as prime minister and be responsible for negotiating the UK’s exit from EU over the coming years following last week’s referendum result.
Mr Gove and the four other candidates – Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Stephen Crabb and Liam Fox – will take part in a series of ballots of the party’s 329 MPs, starting on on Tuesday.
The two most popular will then go on to a vote of the wider party membership, with the result due on 9 September.
In launching his campaign Mr Gove described himself as the “candidate of change”.
He said his bid to become leader was driven by conviction about what was right for Britain rather than personal ambition and he had done “everything he could” not to be a candidate.
I am standing for the leadership not as a result of calculation, I am standing with the burning desire to transform our country.
Because my heart tells me that if we are bold, if we refuse to settle for business as usual, if we dare to dream and summon up all the qualities that have made this country the greatest in the world, then for Britain – and its people – our best days lie ahead.
Mr Gove pledged to leave the EU’s single market, make public services “more human” and strengthen the United Kingdom. He said he knew his own limitations but he had “a clear vision of what our future must look like” and had a track record to show he could deliver it.
He ruled out a snap election if he became prime minister, and in a clear slight at Mrs May he insisted the “best person” to take the UK out of the EU was someone who had argued for it during the referendum campaign.
He would not begin official talks with the EU over the UK’s exit, by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, before the end of the 2016, saying “we control the timing and we will do it when we are good and ready”.
He also said he would abandon the government’s target of eliminating Britain’s Budget deficit by 2020 – something Chancellor George Osborne and his leadership rival Theresa May have also backed.
Mr Gove’s decision to throw his hat into the ring was met with incredulity by many of Mr Johnson’s supporters.
Asked whether he had been betrayed by Mr Gove, Mr Johnson told reporters as he left his home that “unfortunately he couldn’t get on with what he wanted to do” and it was now “up to somebody else”.
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