Michael Gove cannot be trusted to be prime minister because he has “an emotional need to gossip, particularly when drink is taken, as it all too often seemed to be”, according to claims made by Boris Johnson’s former campaign manager.
In a stinging attack in the Daily Telegraph,for which Johnson also writes a weekly column, Ben Wallace said things started to go wrong as soon as Gove joined the former London mayor’s Tory leadership campaign and accused him of being behind stories that leaked to the media.
“For me this wasn’t new” Wallace wrote. “When I was a government whip and Michael was the chief whip, the office leaked like a sieve. Important policy and personnel details made their way to the papers. Michael seems to have an emotional need to gossip, particularly when drink is taken, as it all too often seemed to be.
“UK citizens deserve to know that when they go to sleep at night their secrets and their nation’s secrets aren’t shared in the newspaper column of the prime minister’s wife the next day, or traded away with newspaper proprietors over fine wine.”
Simultaneously, Johnson attacked the government for not having made the case for Brexit and, thereby, causing a “kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning of the kind that I remember in 1997 after the death of the Princess of Wales”.
In his weekly Telegraph column, he wrote: “It was wrong of the government to offer the public a binary choice on the EU without being willing – in the event that people voted leave – to explain how this can be made to work in the interests of the UK and Europe. We cannot wait until mid-September, and a new PM. We need a clear statement, now, of some basic truths.”
Those truths, he wrote, included there being “no risk whatever to the status of the EU nationals now resident and welcome in the UK”. The current favourite to replace David Cameron in Number 10, Theresa May, has said that EU nationals will be allowed to stay but has said that what rights they would enjoy will be determined during the exit negotiations.
Wallace said that it was in EU nations’ interests to agree a free trade deal with Britain and that the UK could also now do similar deals with other countries around the world. And he said that the UK could still benefit from cooperation with its European neighbours on security.
Johnson’s supporters were unhappy, not only with what they saw as Gove’s betrayal, but with the manner in which it was carried out; complaining that the justice secretary gave no warning that he was about to announce his candidacy.
“Boris is many things, but nasty he is not,” Wallace wrote. “I remember when he made his decision to back Brexit I pleaded with him not to. I said it would lose him the leadership. But he said ‘sovereignty mattered more than anything’.
“At the time David Cameron was negotiating hard in Brussels. Boris agreed it would be dishonourable to pull the rug from under the PM as he sat at dinner with EU leaders trying to get the best for the UK. So he waited till he was back. Gove didn’t. That says it all.”
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