Johnson Stands Down as Five Vie for David Cameron’s Job

Michael Gove and Theresa May are in, Boris Johnon is out. Live commentary on the British leadership contest.

British cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Theresa May
British cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Theresa May (Conservatives/UK Home Office)
  • Michael Gove, the British justice secretary, has forced Boris Johnson out of the race to succeed David Cameron by launching his own bid for the Conservative Party leadership.
  • Theresa May, the home secretary, formally declared her candidacy as well. She is seen as the best candidate to reunite the party after a bruising EU referendum campaign.
  • Other candidates are Stephen Crabb, a “Cameroon” on the left of the party, and Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom, two Euroskeptics.
Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201610:49 AM

Boris Johnson’s candidacy to succeed David Cameron is sinking.

If even Gove, who was his deputy during the leave campaign and expected to form a Brexit “dream team” with the former mayor, doesn’t think he’s a shoo-in for the position, then why should anyone consider him the favorite?

I argued a few days ago that the half of the party that supported Britain’s membership of the EU was never going to forgive Johnson so easily for leading them out of the bloc.

Nor is this just about the outcome of the referendum. It’s that Johnson sometimes lost his mind during the campaign, from blaming the EU — rather than Russia — for the crisis in Ukraine to suggesting that American president Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage had anything to do with his support for Britain’s continued membership. Not stuff you might call prime ministerial.

Moreover, there’s a sense among centrist lawmakers that Johnson betrayed Cameron. Many of the parliamentarians who were elected in 2010 and 2015 are in the “Cameroon” wing of the party. Stephen Crabb is one of them, but they’ll probably throw their support behind Theresa May in a two-way contest with Gove or Johnson.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201610:51 AM

Click here to catch up on Theresa May’s candidacy. Daniel Berman argued earlier this week that she’s on the Tory right but does not face the same kind of anger Boris Johnson does.

Chris Revell 30 Jun 201610:53 AM

Michael Gove’s statement this morning is an incredible about-turn for a politician who had previously ruled himself out of standing for office. Having initially appeared to back Johnson, Gove said, “I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson. But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”

Theresa May has also launched her leadership bid with the backing of the leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling, while Andrea Leadsom has also announced that she will run.

Boris Johnson has yet to officially announce that he will stand and given the statement made by Gove and the potential erosion of his backers who may switch to the justice secretary, there must be a lot of concern within his campaign team.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201610:59 AM

Michael Gove’s candidacy splits the “Brexit” vote in the Conservative Party.

Remember, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom are also running. Both are Euroskeptics and while neither is likely to win, they could each draw some support away from Johnson.

I suppose a similar argument could be made about the effect of Stephen Crabb’s candidacy on Theresa May, but he’s the only one running unambiguously as David Cameron’s heir and my guess is that some will support him on a first ballot to indicate what sort of a party they want before switching to May in order to keep the Brexit finalist out of office.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201611:11 AM

Theresa May is contrasting her own unpretentious background with the privileged upbringing of those for whom politics, as she put it, is a “game”.

“If you are from an ordinary working-class family, life is just much harder than many people in politics realize,” she said.

Frankly, not everybody in Westminster understands what it’s like to live like this and some need to be told that it isn’t a game. It’s a serious business that has real consequences for people’s lives.

Unlike Gove and Johnson, May is state-educated and, as Anne McElvoy has written in The Observer, “she has done the slog of heading a local government education committee in south London on her way to political glory. The contrast with the gilded sorts who floated into plum seats through connections and a stint in the Conservative Research Department is self-evident.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201611:18 AM

Jeremy Hunt, the education secretary and a “remainer”, has taken himself out of contention in order to support Theresa May.

It does seem as if the centrist wing of the party is consolidating around her whereas the more reactionary, pro-Brexit wing is in disarray.

Chris Revell 30 Jun 201611:35 AM

Michael Gove’s successor as education secretary, Nicky Morgan, was the nominator behind his bid and she will now not be standing for the leadership herself.

Gove’s nomination was seconded by Dominic Raab, who in an article for The Sun yesterday threw his support behind Boris Johnson, saying, “I am backing Boris Johnson to be our next leader because he has the vision, the optimism and the raw fire to take Britain forward.”

He has also secured the support of Nick Boles, who is believed to be his campaign manager. Boles, who wanted Britain to stay in the European Union, outlined his support for Johnson only three days ago in Conservative Home.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201611:57 AM
Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, campaigns for reelection, April 15, 2012
Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, campaigns for reelection, April 15, 2012 (BackBoris2012/I-Images/Andrew Parsons)

It seems Boris Johnson did one flipflop too many.

The former mayor of London is not, after all, standing for the Conservative Party’s leadership.

The surprise announcement comes days after Johnson disappointed many in the “Brexit” campaign by suggesting the United Kingdom could negotiate so close a relationship with the EU that it would barely feel the effects of leaving.

He also said the leave campaign was never really about immigration, all evidence to the contrary which suggests the majority of those who voted out did so in order to control immigration.

The contradictions were obvious in his speech today, when he presented himself as the champion of the working man, despite being more of a libertarian than a one-nation conservative.

You can’t go back and forth between nostalgia and optimism, between isolationism and cosmopolitanism, and expect people not to eventually see you for the political opportunist you are.

Click here to read more.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201612:47 PM

The final tally of Conservative Party candidates is five: Stephen Crabb, Theresa May, Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom.

The first parliamentary vote will be held on Tuesday, Graham Brady, the head of the backbenchers’ 1922 Committee, said, with further ballots held on every subsequent Thursday and Tuesday until there are two candidates left. They will then vie for the support of the full party membership.

I expect Fox and Leadsom will be eliminated quickly. Fox is yesterday’s news and why would anyone vote for Leadsom when they can have Gove?

In a three-way contest, Crabb’s supporters would presumably switch to May, perhaps after a promise from May to give Crabb a prominent post in her cabinet so he can position himself for another leadership bid in five or ten years’ time.

May has already said she’s not going to call a general election if she is elected leader. I don’t think Gove has said anything similar?

Cameron’s first administration, with the Liberal Democrats, introduced fixed-term parliaments, but British politics are still acclimatizing to this. There may be pressure on the next prime minister to call an early election anyway.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 20161:55 PM
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed in Margate, England, September 5, 2015
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed in Margate, England, September 5, 2015 (Simon Moores)

Jeremy Corbyn has once again put his foot in his mouth when talking about antisemitism.

This time, he compared the state of Israel to Muslim fanatics.

Speaking at the presentation of a report about antisemitism in his party, Corbyn failed to condemn Jew-hatred in isolation, as he has so consistently failed to do. Whenever antisemitism comes up, Corbyn must lecture against all forms of racism.

But he did one worse today, saying, “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.”

Click here to continue reading.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 20162:34 PM

Philip Stephens argues in the Financial Times that the current two-party system no longer reflects the real divisions in British society.

“Many centrist Tories have more in common with their counterparts on the Labour side than with English nationalist Brexiters,” he writes.

Political realignments do not happen often in British politics, mostly because the first-past-the-post electoral system has been merciless toward third parties. But the space may be opening up for a new, pro-European, economically liberal and socially compassionate alternative to pinched nationalism and hard-left socialism.

That’s certainly the Liberal Democrats’ hope. As I wrote yesterday, Tim Farron is looking to take advantage of the Labour split. If Corbyn and his loyalists take over, the party’s centrist lawmakers may rather want to team up with the liberals to create a new party for the “48 percent”. Which, given its size, could then claim official opposition status.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 20164:38 PM

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reports there are suspicions around Westminster that David Cameron and George Osborne may have been behind Michael Gove’s decision to enter the leadership contest in order to stop Boris Johnson.

“It won’t be clear for some time, if ever, if that is really the case,” she writes.

But two things are clear already — the chaos of this morning is a bonus for Home Secretary Theresa May’s (so far) calm campaign and the aftermath of the referendum has poisoned new seeds of bitterness inside the Conservatives.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 20166:24 PM

Michael Gove has told the BBC he entered the Conservative leadership contest because he felt the party needed someone who believes “heart and soul in leaving the European Union.”

Boris Johnson, apparently, was not that man.

Gove said he held out hope until Wednesday night that Johnson could “build a team, lead and unite” the party but ultimately concluded, “It had to fall to someone else.”

Gove also said that outside the EU, Britain will be able to bring immigration “under control in the way that the public want” with an Australian-style points system.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 20168:28 PM

Angela Eagle, who had been expected to make a bid for the Labour Party leadership today, has repeated her call on Jeremy Corbyn to resign.

“He’s been asked to stand down and, at the moment, we want him to consider his position and do what is right in the interest of the party,” she said. “So over to you, Jeremy.”

In a statement, Corbyn called on the Labour Party and the trade union movement (which still largely supports him) to unite. “As leader, it is my continued commitment to dedicate our party’s activity to that goal,” it reads.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 30 Jun 201610:30 PM

Laura Kuenssberg summarizes all the Gove-Johnson conspiracy theories she’s heard today, from Gove being dismayed that Johnson’s team wouldn’t share its list of supporters with him to the justice secretary being encouraged to run by his old friends David Cameron and George Osborne in order to prevent Johnson making it into the final top two. It all has more than a whiff of House of Cards and I don’t suppose we’ll quite learn the truth for a while.

Who benefits from all this? Theresa May, of course. “Her job and intention today was to look calm, sober and powerful,” writes Kuenssberg. She may well have achieved that anyway, but the psychodrama between her rivals made sure of it.

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