Gove claims he CAN revive flagging Tory leader bid

‘I’m the Chumbawumba candidate!’ Gove claims he CAN revive flagging Tory leader bid despite cocaine admission saying he ‘gets knocked down but gets up again’

  • Michael Gove has insisted his Conservative leadership hopes remain alive
  • He came 3rd in the first ballot after campaign was rocked by cocaine admission
  • Today in an interview he sets out plans for increased housebuilding in the UK
  • Only two leadership candidates will progress to a ballot of the party members 

Michael Gove has styled himself the ‘Chumbawamba candidate’ for the Tory leadership, referencing the anarchist band’s 1997 hit which repeats the lyrics: ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.’

The Environment Secretary certainly got knocked down last week, following his admission last Saturday – ahead of a revelation in a forthcoming biography serialised in the Mail – that he took cocaine on several occasions as a journalist in his 30s. The admission, and subsequent howls of hypocrisy, led to many discounting the prominent Leave campaigner as a potential ‘stop Boris’ candidate.

But his robust showing of 37 votes in Thursday’s first-round ballot for his party leadership – hopelessly behind Johnson but within striking distance of Jeremy Hunt in second place – suggests the combative Scot has, at least, ‘got up again’.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove outside his house in West London this morning

Mr Gove has insisted his campaign remains viable – that he is ‘the Chumbawamba candidate’

He told the Sunday Times: ‘At the beginning of last week people said I was going backwards. We put on votes in the course of the week — I’m well placed now.’

He said he had been told: ‘Michael, you are the “Comeback Kid”. You are the Chumbawamba candidate. You get knocked down, but you get up again.’

Mr Gove, who was spotted outside his home holding newspapers, has also today picked up endorsements from two further cabinet ministers: Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, and the Scottish secretary, David Mundell. 

In the interview he set out his plans for housing reform, calling for a national housing fund created by issuing Brexit bonds, and the use of ‘citizens’ juries’ to ensure good design codes.

He pointed to his record at Education, Justice, and now Environment – where he has led a crusade against single-use plastics – as evidence of his ability to make things happen even in usually sclerotic departments, saying: ‘Two years on, I would say that Defra has been the most pro-active, energetic, policy-rich department in the government.’

His newfound zeal for the housebuilding programme could be a pitch for the Communities Secretary job in a Johnson government, which will need to offer bold popular policies on housing.

Boris Johnson is the runaway leader in the race but – assuming his campaign does not implode – any one of the other five candidates could still join him on the ballot of party members

Mr Gove found himself in third place after the first round of MP’s voting on Thursday 

But Mr Gove continued to criticise Johnson’s vow to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal, saying: ‘If we are 95 per cent of the way there, and it just requires a few more days and weeks, I think it would be a mistake to say, “That’s it.”

‘It would be like if you ordered a new kitchen and you had the fridge and the dishwasher in and you hadn’t had the hob fitted and you say, “You said it was all going to be in by Friday, the hob’s not here, let’s rip it all out.” ‘

But he insisted he ‘would absolutely work with Boris in any way that he wanted to work with me’ – a noteworthy softening of his position after insisting in 2016 his former ally was not up to the top job.

Mr Gove, who was adopted as an infant, also told the paper he was considering contacting his birth mother for the first time, after his biographer shared her details with him.

Where do they stand this morning? What the candidates for Tory leader said as they gear up for the debate

Michael Gove

Declared himself the ‘Chumbawumba candidate’ following a decent showing in the first round of voting despite his cocaine revelations, in a reference to a 1997 hit by the anarchist band with the lyrics ‘I get knocked down, I get back up again, you’re never going to keep me down’. How familiar Tory members will be with the tune waits to be seen.

In the Sunday Times he put forth a proposal for a national housing fund paid for by ‘Brexit bonds’, with home designs to be approved by citizens juries – all of which which has been interpreted as a pitch for the election-battleground portfolio of Communities Secretary in a possible Johnson administration.

Mr Gove, who in 2016 said Mr Johnson was not up to the top job, scuppering his former ally’s campaign, added: ‘I would absolutely work with Boris in any way that he wanted to work with me. No question’

Sajid Javid

Declaring himself one of only two ‘change’ candidates in the race, along with Boris, the Home Secretary used an interview in the Sunday Times to point out all his rivals went to Oxford University, while he grew up above his parents’ shop and was the first member of his family to go to university.

He said he was the leader who could ‘look the British public in the eye’ as a fellow consumer of state services.

In a possible bid to enter the door of Number 11 as Mr Johnson’s neighbour, Mr Javid set out his economic credentials, outlining plans for an emergency ‘no-deal budget’.

Clockwise from top left: Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Rory Stewart, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, the six remaining Conservative leadership contenders.

Rory Stewart

The International Development Secretary told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘The other candidates aren’t prepared to talk about how they’re going to get Brexit done’, adding: ‘They’re just basically saying, Brexit, deliver Brexit. When you say how, answer comes there none. Trust me I’m going to deliver Brexit.’

This morning he asked the BBC’s Andrew Marr ‘How is Boris going to deliver Brexit?’

He added: ‘I don’t even know what he believes. He won’t talk to me, he won’t talk to you, he won’t talk to the public,’ as it emerged the front-runner will be empty-chaired at tonight’s Channel 4 debate.  

Dominic Raab

Mr Raab, the contest’s other remaining hard-Brexiteer, this morning accused rivals of going ‘weak at the knees’ and defended his decision not to rule out suspending Parliament to push through a no deal Brexit if needs be.

He told Sky: ‘We gave people a decision. Now Parliament is trying to steal it back away from them. When people voted, they voted to leave.’

He added: ‘The big mistake we made in these negotiations was taking no-deal off the table. When we start ruling things out we only weaken our chances of getting a deal.’ 

Jeremy Hunt 

The Foreign Secretary, who came second to Mr Johnson in last week’s ballot of Tory MPs, announced an eye-catching policy of offering financial incentives to families who build accommodation for elderly relatives – to help ease the growing social care and childcare burden on the taxpayer. 

Mr Hunt, who was a distant second in the first round, insisted in the Mail on Sunday he had still not given up hope of winning in the final postal ballot of party members.

‘I am the insurgent in this race,’ he said. ‘I am in it to win it because we have to give the country better choices given the crisis that we’re in now.’

Today he said he would exhaust all options before contemplating No Deal.

‘The difference between me and Boris is I would try for a deal,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson remains tight-lipped as his team seeks to avoid doing or saying anything which could undermine their candidate’s huge lead among MPs.

Mr Johnson was criticised yesterday for busting into a hustings event in London without taking questions from journalists – and sneaking out the back door afterwards.

By contrast his rivals stopped to talk to reporters. All six have agreed to take part in the Channel 4 show this evening – but Mr Johnson has made clear he will stay away.


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