UK Politics

Tory leadership: Gove 'standing out of conviction not ambition'

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Media captionMichael Gove: 'I had to listen to my heart'

Michael Gove has said his bid to become Tory leader and PM is driven by "conviction" about what is right for the UK, not personal ambition.

The justice secretary said that when he concluded Boris Johnson was not the "right person", his "heart told him" that he should put himself forward.

He vowed to cut immigration by blocking EU free movement and spend an extra £100m a week on the NHS if he wins.

But Mr Gove is facing calls to step down to ensure party unity.

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, 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 330 MPs, starting 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.

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Media captionBoris Johnson on Gove: "I wish him every success"

Launching his leadership bid in a policy-rich speech in which he declared himself the "candidate of change" and set out clear dividing lines between himself and Mrs May, Mr Gove said he had done "everything he could" not to be a candidate.

He said he had worked "day and night" to push Mr Johnson's interests but concluded his colleague could not take the UK down the "path of change" opened up by Brexit, saying what was needed was to embrace the opportunity not "muddle through and make the best of it".

'No charisma'

"I did almost everything not to be a candidate for the leadership of this party. 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.

"I am standing for the leadership not as a result of calculation, I am standing with the burning desire to transform our country," he said.

"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 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 pledged to leave the EU's single market, make public services "more human" and strengthen the United Kingdom.

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Media captionHow Michael Gove has denied wanting to be PM

Ruling out a snap election if he became prime minister, he insisted the "best person" to take the UK out of the EU was someone who had argued for it during the referendum campaign.

But he said 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.

'Full-fat Brexit'

Mr Gove's decision to throw his hat into the ring was met with incredulity by the media and 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 he could not "unfortunately get on with what I wanted to do" and it was now "up to somebody else".

Dominic Raab, a former supporter of Mr Johnson who is now backing Mr Gove, said to outsiders the move would look "horrific and Machiavellian" and insisted Mr Gove had tried to make the alliance with Mr Johnson work.

But he rejected calls for Mr Gove to now stand aside, saying party members deserved a "clear choice" and Mr Gove was the man to deliver a "full-fat Brexit not a semi-skimmed version".

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Image caption Theresa May has picked up support from several of her cabinet colleagues
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Image caption Patrick McLoughlin and Michael Fallon have both pledged their support for the home secretary

But Ms Soubry urged him to quit the race after Tuesday's ballot to allow the party to "unite" behind Mrs May and former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke said Mr Gove's standing aside would enable the process to be "speeded up" saying any party leader and prime minister "should have the trust, as far as possible, of your colleagues".

'Grown-ups'

Mrs May has been boosted by the support of the Daily Mail and Cabinet colleagues including defence secretary Michael Fallon.

Liam Fox, meanwhile, said the focus should squarely be on how the UK negotiated its exit from the EU and got the best possible deal, saying anything else was a serious distraction.

Who's backing who?

"We're in the process of electing a prime minister who will actually take us out of the European Union, and yet we seem to be permanently distracted by what can only be described as the politics of the Oxford Union in recent days," Radio 4's Today.

"I think it was a distraction, we need Brexit for grown-ups and we need to be talking about the big issues."

And Mrs Leadsom said that while Mrs May was a "totally brilliant home secretary", she believed the next prime minister should be someone who "really believes that the UK would be better off once we leave the EU".

"The clear priority is to deliver on the referendum," the energy minister - who was won the backing of former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson - told ITV's Good Morning Britain. "We have been given an instruction, we now have to get a grip and get on with it."


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Who's in the running?

Home Secretary Theresa May: The 59-year-old has replaced Boris Johnson as the bookies' favourite to win the contest. She's held the Home Office brief - often something of a poisoned chalice - since 2010, and is a former Tory party chairman. She says she can offer the "strong leadership" and unity the UK needs, and promised a "positive vision" for the country's future. She backed staying in the EU. Theresa May profile

Justice Secretary Michael Gove: The 48-year-old former newspaper columnist was a key figure in the party's modernisation that led to its return to power in 2010. He was a reforming, if controversial, education secretary between 2010 and 2014, and now holds the Ministry of Justice brief. He was a leading player in the Brexit campaign - which put a strain on his close friendship with David Cameron. He has pitched himself as the candidate that can provide "unity and change." Michael Gove profile

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb: The 43-year-old was promoted to the cabinet in 2014 as Welsh secretary, and boosted his profile earlier this year when he took over as work and pensions secretary. A rising star of the Tory party he has promised to unite the party and country following the referendum result and provide stability. Raised on a council estate by a single mother, he has a back story to which many Tory MPs are attracted. Backed Remain. Stephen Crabb profile

Energy minister Andrea Leadsom: The 53-year-old former banker and fund manager was one of the stars of the Leave campaign. A former district councillor, she became MP for South Northamptonshire in 2010 and - after serving as a junior Treasury minister and as a member of the Treasury select committee - she was made a junior minister in the energy and climate change department in May last year. Andrea Leadsom profile

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox: It's second time around for the 54-year-old ex-defence secretary and GP, who came a close third in the 2005 leadership contest. His cabinet career was cut short in 2011 when he resigned following a lobbying row. A Brexit campaigner, and on the right of the party, he has said whoever becomes PM must accept "the instruction" of the British people and not "try to backslide" over EU membership. Liam Fox profile


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