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MPs ask: Which way will Michael Gove lean in any Tory leadership contest?


Which way will Gove jump in a leadership contest? Would-be rivals to Boris will ‘fight over’ the Levelling-Up Secretary’s backing in the event of a Tory race amid Partygate row

  • Insiders say Michael Gove’s backing could ‘make or break’ Tory leadership bid
  • Rivals would be prepared to fight over Mr Gove’s support in case of any contest
  • Rishi Sunak is among the favourites to succeed Mr Johnson if he is ousted
  • Other candidates would likely include Liz Truss, Priti Patel and Nadhim Zahawi


Michael Gove’s backing could make or break a Tory leadership candidate, insiders have said as speculation mounts over the ‘kingmaker’ Cabinet Minister.

Would-be rivals will ‘fight over’ the Levelling-Up Secretary’s backing in the event of a contest, multiple sources said.

Mr Gove is not expected to throw his hat in the ring to succeed Boris Johnson, having both publicly and privately ruled out the idea of another bid.

But it is not certain yet who he will back. A source in one would-be leadership camp said last night: ‘He will enjoy being fought over.’

One senior MP said Mr Gove would probably back Chancellor Rishi Sunak eventually, although a source close to Mr Gove said it was ‘not sewn up for Rishi’.

Other likely candidates include Liz Truss, Priti Patel, Nadhim Zahawi and Penny Mordaunt.

The source added: ‘If there is an outsider, [Gove’s] backing could make their prospects. If I was Rishi or Liz I wouldn’t want him to go with that outsider.’

Michael Gove’s backing could make or break a Tory leadership candidate, insiders have said as speculation mounts over the ‘kingmaker’ Cabinet Minister

Rishi Sunak

Liz Truss

One senior MP said Mr Gove would probably back Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) eventually, although a source close to Mr Gove said it was ‘not sewn up for Rishi’. Liz Truss is also expected to be in any eventual race

An ally of Mr Gove said: ‘If he’s saying, “I’ve been knocking around in politics on a senior level for many years, this is who you should back”, people will listen to that.

He’s not going to decide the next leader, but 100 per cent he will be influential.’ 

It is understood that Mr Gove would want one of the great offices of state – Chancellor, Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary – in return.

Meanwhile MPs have been speculating over who senior Tories will support. 

Mr Gove is not expected to throw his hat in the ring to succeed Boris Johnson, having both publicly and privately ruled out the idea of another bid

Mr Gove is not expected to throw his hat in the ring to succeed Boris Johnson, having both publicly and privately ruled out the idea of another bid

Carrie tightlipped over police letter: PM’s wife refuses to reveal if she has received questionnaire from cops over Partygate  

Her husband has already received a police questionnaire demanding answers over his role in the Partygate affair.

But last night it was not known whether the PM’s wife had also received a document from the Met.

Mrs Johnson has been linked to three of the controversial events under investigation by Scotland Yard – starting with the ‘bring your own booze’ event in the Downing Street garden during the first Covid lockdown.

A Downing Street figure has claimed Mrs Johnson, then the PM’s fiancée, accompanied him to ‘socially distanced drinks’, attended by about 40 people.

She has also been accused of helping to organise a surprise birthday party for Mr Johnson in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020, attended by up to 30.

Finally, friends of Mrs Johnson are said to have organised a ‘Winner Takes It All’ Abba party on November 13, 2020, to mark the resignation of Dominic Cummings.

Mrs Johnson’s spokesperson has previously denied she held such a party in the flat on that date.

No 10 confirmed on Friday that the PM had received a questionnaire over the alleged Covid restrictions rule-breaking.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey is expected to back Foreign Secretary Ms Truss, who recently threw a 50th birthday party for her in Chevening, her grace and favour estate.

Education Secretary Mr Zahawi is expected to launch a leadership, bid but then row in behind Home Secretary Ms Patel. 

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis is also expected to back Ms Patel.

Trade Minister Ms Mordaunt is widely seen as being ‘on manoeuvres’ and holding meetings with Tory MPs.

A source said that they have been in ‘one after the other’ in her office. 

The ex-Defence Secretary is expected to launch a bid before throwing her weight behind another candidate.

One leadership camp insider said Jacob Rees-Mogg was seen as another key Minister to get on-side. 

The Brexit Opportunity Minister is expected to ‘bring people with him’, whoever he backs.

Mr Gove is said to be ‘frustrated’ with his levelling-up brief. 

One Cabinet Minister refers to him as The Octopus because he gets so involved in other policy areas.

A source said: ‘He’s a big get for whoever gets to back him.’ 

The parliamentary party don’t think he’s electable, but you’d be hard pushed to find people in the party who don’t think he’s very smart and have a lot of respect for him.

‘There’s no one who’s never been Prime Minister who’s had as much influence on Government policy as Michael Gove.’

Leadership hopefuls have kept a low profile, but rival camps have begun briefing against each other. 

Two sources said last week that Mr Sunak was ‘too small’ to be Prime Minister, with one Tory saying he needed to put on some weight to be taken seriously. 

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