All the times Michael Gove said he didn't want to be prime minister

"Gove's decision to stand comes after multiple occasions in which he insisted he never would"
"Gove's decision to stand comes after multiple occasions in which he insisted he never would"
Ian Dunt By

Michael Gove today announced his decision to run for the leadership of the Tory party. "I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead," he said. "I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership."

And with that, Boris Johnson was toast. MPs fled his ship and at lunchtime he confirmed he would not be running for leader.

But Gove's decision to stand comes after multiple occasions in which he insisted he never would.

Just a few weeks ago, on June 3rd, he told Sky News:


"I can tell you I'm absolutely not. The one thing I can tell you is there are lots of talented people who could be prime minister after David Cameron but count me out."

Just over a month ago, he told the Telegraph:

"I don't want to do it and there are people who are far better equipped than me to do it. And there are people who have advocated Leave and people who have advocated Remain who are far better than me to do it."

Over the years he's told almost anyone who would listen that he wouldn't stand. But what's particularly interesting is that these weren't just flat-out denials - they were very specific. And what he said is going to haunt him.

"I don’t think I have got that exceptional level of ability required to do the job," he told the Telegraph last month. "I don’t have what it takes," he told the Financial Times in 2014. "I am an inconceivable choice as party leader," he told the Sunday Times in 2013.

On Question Time in 2013, he said:

"The one thing I do know having seen David Cameron up close is it takes extraordinary reserves of patience of judgement of character to lead this country and he has it and I don't and I think it's important to recognise in life you’ve reached an appropriate point."

On World at One in 2012, he said:

"There are lots of other folk, including in the Cabinet who could easily be prime minister, I am not one of them. I could not be prime minister, I am not equipped to be prime minister, I don’t want to be prime minister."

The same year, he told Standpoint magazine:

"I'm constitutionally incapable of it. There's a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don't have it. There's an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it's better not to try."

These words must hang over him like a shadow. The question is, what's changed? He clearly didn't believe this would happen earlier this month. If the email from his wife Sarah Vine is genuine, it suggests he wasn't given whatever it was he wanted by Johnson yesterday.

You get the sense there's something we don't know. But we do know one thing. If Gove wins the leadership, he'll never see the end of those quotes. The question he must answer is: if he didn't think he was up to it, why should voters disagree?

Ian Dunt is the editor of Politics.co.uk

The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners

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