Gove edges Johnson out of race to succeed British PM Cameron

David Cameron

David Cameron

Forget the polls and the bookmakers. If the race to succeed British Prime Minister David Cameron as the country’s leader and head of the ruling Conservative Party demonstrated anything on Thursday, it’s that all bets are off.

In a day of unexpected twists and turns, former London mayor Boris Johnsonsaid on Thursday that he will not be running to replace Cameron, who announced plans to resign from office after the UK voted to leave the European Union last week.

The surprising move came shortly after Johnson’s close ally and fellow Brexiter Justice Secretary Michael Gove broke ranks to declare his own candidacy, despite having ruled out the possibility at least three times in the past.

“I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be Prime Minister. That has always been my view,” Gove wrote in a column on the British magazine Spectator’s website. “But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”

Gove’s comments dealt a major blow to Johnson, who was previously one of the bookies’ favourites to win. But if the day’s events have demonstrated anything, it’s that all bets are now off.

“It’s like we’re in ‘House of Cards’,” Sarah Pickard, a lecturer on contemporary British civilisation at the Sorbonne University, told FRANCE 24. “Boris Johnson dropped out for a number of reasons. But mostly because Gove, his ally in the ‘Leave’ campaign, declared his candidacy. Gove said that Johnson didn’t have the ‘leadership’ needed, meaning the ability to unite in order to form a government. It was intended to block Johnson.”

‘Theresa May said the right things today’

The drama between Gove and Johnson could potentially play into the hands of another candidate, Home Secretary Theresa May, who also announced that she was running on Thursday.

A low-key supporter of the “Remain” campaign, May promised to honour last week’s vote during her declaration speech.

“Brexit means Brexit,” she said. “The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum.”