LONDON â He’s quiet, bookish, and widely accused of back-stabbing the front-runner in the race to become the next British prime minister. Michael Gove is suddenly the talk of the town.
Shocking political pundits in Britain â who, by now, really ought to be immune from shocking news â Gove on Thursday said that he didnât think that the former London mayor Boris Johnson could provide the leadership that the Conservative Party needed.
As of Wednesdayâ a lifetime ago in Britain’s wild political ride â Gove was expected to throw his support behind Johnson, a fellow-in-arms in the successful campaign for British to leave the European Union. Gove, however, had other plans â despite repeated statements that he never wanted the keys to 10 Downing Street.
First came Gove’s bombshell that he wanted to be prime minister after all.Â Then an ambushed and deflated Johnson announced Thursday he was dropping out of the race to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, who is stepping down after his pro-E.U. side came up short in last week’s referendum.
The comparisons to Frank Underwood â the fictional schemer-in-chief on “House of Cards” â came thick and fast.
Britainâs justice secretary is a controversial figure, admired by some, loathed by others. Gove â or “Gover,” as Johnson calls him â is considered one of Westminsterâs more cerebral figures. On his nomination papers to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party, he used roman numerals.
While some had questions over Boris Johnson’s commitment to the cause of Brexit, Gove is seen as a life-long Brexiter and was one of the first people in David Cameronâs senior leadership team to say he was backing the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.
Unlike some parts of the leave campaign that focused on largely on immigration, Gove’s driving argument for leaving was one of sovereignty.Â
âLaws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and canât throw out,â he wrote in the Spectator magazine.
A former journalist, the 48-year-old Gove entered politics in 2005, which is when be became education secretary where some viewed him as a savior, others as a bogeyman, for trying to radically reform the status quo.
David Laws, a British politician who worked closely with Gove in the education department, told the BBC: âOne Conservative MP I think described Michael as like a mixture of Jeeves and Che Guevara,” he told the the BBC.
Perhaps he was seen as just too divisive. Cameron, a close friend of Gove, moved him to the post of chief whip prior to last yearâs general election, a move many thought was a demotion. Â
“Demotion, emotion, promotion, locomotion, I don’t know how you would describe this move, though move it is, all I would say is that it’s a privilege to serve,” is how Gove described it on the BBC.
He became the justice secretary following the general election last year.
He is married to Sarah Vine, a columnist for the Daily Mail, who sent an extraordinary email that was leaked yesterday that quickly earned her comparisons to the “House of Cards” First Lady-slash-Lady MacBeth Claire Underwood.
In the email, she told her husband not to âconcede any groundâ in negotiating with Johnson and to âbe your stubborn best.â
It appears he listened to her advice.