Chief whip and former education secretary, Michael Gove, has defended Boris Johnson’s credentials as a candidate for a top role in a future Conservative government, saying he’d like to see the London mayor in a “succession of frontline roles”.
Speaking on a phone-in show on radio station LBC – which presenter Iain Dale speculated was the first phone-in ever to feature a government chief whip – Gove said he would like to see Johnson in a top job as soon as possible, adding that “he’s been successful in every job he’s ever done”.
When a caller said she would “perish the thought” of Boris Johnson becoming prime minister, Gove said “I wouldn’t say ‘perish the thought’”.
“He’s a fantastic mayor and I think and hope that when he’s elected to the House of Commons we’ll see him in a succession of frontline roles in the future,” he said.
When asked if he thought Johnson could be home secretary, foreign secretary or chancellor of the exchequer, Gove said: “I think he could do any job and I think one of the critical things to remember is that when Boris was running for mayor the Labour line on Boris was ‘oh, the administration of London will fall apart. He’s a clownish figure’. The truth was that over the last six years Boris has been an outstanding mayor.”
The comments come after signs that Gove and his ally chancellor George Osborne have decided to welcome Johnson in to the fold. Osborne and Gove are thought to be vehemently opposed to home secretary Theresa May’s Conservative party leadership ambitions.
When asked if he would prefer Johnson to May as the next Tory leader, Gove said: “No, I would prefer David Cameron as the next Tory leader ... I’d like him to carry on as long as possible”.
Johnson is one of the favourites to replace Cameron as leader of the Conservative party after the general election. He has recently made a number of high-profile trips abroad – including to Kurdistan, China and India – which have been interpreted as attempts to demonstrate his credentials as an international statesman.
When asked about media reports that he has a poor relationship with May, Gove said: “I think almost every rumour in the paper about almost any politician is complete rubbish.”
The chief whip also clarified the circumstances surrounding the widely reported incident in which his phone rang in a cabinet meeting. He said he accidentally pushed the wrong button on his new Pebble smartwatch – a gift from his wife – and a ringtone started playing.
“I had to fiddle with it incompetently for what must have been fifteen seconds, but what felt like an eternity, during which time everyone was looking at me with that ‘what a plonker’ look of their faces,” he said.
He confirmed that his ringtone was from Beyonce’s new album and was probably the song ‘Drunk in Love’, but said he couldn’t be sure as it was downloaded by his wife or one of his children.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Thursday 5th February 2015 21.54 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010