Michael Gove has admitted for the first time that he made considerable “mistakes” in the Conservative leadership election and suggested his challenging of Boris Johnson was the reason he was fired from the cabinet.
The former Justice Secretary said it was “right” he was subsequently demoted to the backbenches, confessing: “If I’d been in Theresa [May]’s position I’d have sacked me too.”
Gove said on Saturday that he was “enjoying” the chance to scrutinise the Government over its handling of Brexit, and would not necessarily take a position in May’s cabinet if it were offered.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster programme: “Six years as a minister was hugely enjoyable - a great privilege.
“But I think that at the end of the six years, particularly given the way in which certain decisions were taken by me, I think it was probably right for Theresa to want me out of her government and have a fresh start.”
Gove said he had made a “series” of mistakes but refused to directly mention the incident that saw many accuse him of stabbing Johnson in the back after their comradeship during the EU referendum campaign.
He admitted: “During the leadership election I made a series of mistakes, and I think therefore it was right for Theresa to say ‘Michael you’ve blotted your copy book and I need a fresh start and a new team’.
“That seems to me to be eminently sensible.
“Of course it’s a wrench if you’ve been a minister and you’re enjoying your job as I was when I was Justice Secretary, but if I’d been in Theresa’s position I’d have sacked me too.”
Tory MPs accused Gove of “treachery” and said he “trashed his own reputation” at the press conference when Johnson announced he would not stand to become Prime Minister, hours after Gove’s bid.
The move stunned most in British politics as they assumed the now Foreign Secretary would be a shoo-in for the the job.
Gove rejected accusations of “treachery” in October, saying on Sky News: “I should either have paused before supporting Boris the way that I did or, having agreed to support Boris that I should have stuck with it.
“Having made that decision not to support him but to run myself, I should probably have presented my case in a different way than I did.”