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Conservative MPs in uproar as Boris Johnson ‘rips party apart’ by withdrawing from leadership contest after ambush by Michael Gove

Michael Gove, David Cameron and Boris Johnson

The battle for the Conservative leadership was dramatically transformed today after Boris Johnson ruled himself out of the race.

It followed the shock declaration from Michael Gove that he would throw his hat in the ring because he didn’t believe his close friend was up to the job.

He said: “I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership.”

Conservative MPs who turned up for what they thought would be Boris Johnson’s decision to stand for the Tory leadership at the St Ermine hotel near Scotland Yard are absolutely furious.

The MPs who spoke to the Telegraph said they had no idea the Mr Johnson had planned to withdraw from the Tory leadership.

One MP who attended Mr Johnson’s launch said: “Any politician who trusts Michael Gove needs their head examined.

The chaos sent shock waves through the campaign as Home Secretary Theresa May announced her bid to succeed David Cameron this morning.

At midday Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announced that Theresa May, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom will fight it out to succeed David Cameron.

Mr Brady announced that the first set of voting will take place on Tuesday as the party’s MPs winnow down the field of five candidates to two.

With the least successful contender eliminated at each round, further ballots will be held on Thursday, then successive Tuesdays and Thursdays until two front-runners emerge to be put forward to the party membership in the country for a final decision.

Mr Brady said the committee wants a winner to be chosen by September 9.

A handful of Tory MPs reacted with disbelief as news that Mr Johnson would not be seeking the leadership filtered through as they waited for Mr Brady’s announcement.

6:38pm

Summary – how the day unfolded

Five candidates have put their names forward to become the next leader of the Conservative party and UK Prime Minister. Here is a timeline showing how events unfolded on Thursday June 30 (note: all timings are approximate):

Nigel Farage weighs in on battle for Number 10 in a column for the Daily Telegraph, saying he thinks it is “inconceivable” for the next PM to be someone who backed the Remain camp.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Liam Fox says any candidate who voted to stay in the EU would struggle with credibility.

9.08am

Michael Gove makes a shock announcement that he will enter the race for Tory leader, saying: “I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership.” It is a devastating blow for Boris Johnson, who was expected to stand with the Justice Secretary’s backing.

9.17am

Andrea Leadsom announces she is running for the Conservative Party leadership, tweeting: “Let’s make the most of the Brexit opportunities!”

9.30am

Theresa May makes a speech launching her bid to become the next Prime Minister. She says: “My pitch is very simple. I’m Theresa May and I think I’m the best person to be prime minister of this country.” Chris Grayling will back her campaign. The Home Secretary is hot favourite to be one of the two leading candidates who make it onto the final ballot paper.

11.11am

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan confirms she will not be running. Minutes later, so does Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

11.53am

Mr Johnson rules himself out of a bid for the Tory leadership at the 11th hour – an announcement that shocks Westminster. He says of the future PM: “Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me.”

12.05pm

Dr Fox makes a speech confirming he has entered the race to be Tory leader. He outlines his commitment to Brexit, saying the referendum had brought about a “new dawn” for the country. “We must approach it in a spirit of confidence, optimism and hope. We are not leaving the EU, we are rejoining the rest of the world,” he says.

12.08pm

After nominations close at midday, five candidates – Theresa May, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom – are confirmed as the official Tory leadership contenders by the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady.

2.41pm

Ms Leadsom tells Sky News the next Conservative leader must be a Brexiteer – “someone who will deliver on the promise of the referendum because they can see the huge advantages and believe in them”.

2.51pm

Mr Johnson’s father lashes out at Mr Gove, likening him to the assassins who murdered Julius Caesar. Stanley Johnson quoted Caesar’s supposed last words ‘Et tu Brute’ after he was stabbed by his former friend Brutus.

5:48pm

Gove: Boris couldn’t build the team to lead our country

Here’s that Gove interview, the one where he really sticks the knife in saying that although Boris Johnson is a “big character with great abilities” he would not be able to build a team to lead the country through Brexit.

This is fascinating stuff:




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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field