Michael Gove has been sacked and called a “snake” by Downing Street as the constitutional crisis – caused by a prime minister unwilling to face reality – deepens.
The rate of resignations from Boris Johnson’s government has not abated with more than 50 ministers – including at least five secretaries of state – abandoning the PM and telling him to go too.
One man’s battle for survival against his party is not just bad news for the Conservative party, it is paralysing for the government and disastrous for the country – politically, and reputational. “Brand UK” is taking a battering as Great Britain becomes a laughing stock around the world.
A record 50 (and growing number of) ministers have resigned from the government so far, raising questions about who will replace them and whether Johnson has enough Conservatives MPs supporting him to even form a government.
On Thursday morning, Brandon Lewis became the latest secretary of state to resign. In his resignation letter, the quitting Northern Ireland secretary warned Johnson his leadership is now “past the point of no return.”
Lewis said it is “with regret” he was leaving Johnson’s government because he “no longer” believes it upholds “honesty, integrity and mutual respect”.
Gove was sacked last night as cabinet minister for levelling up – Johnson’s key policy – and called a “snake” by a Downing Street “source” for calling for the prime minister to go.
While a flurry of resignation letters engulfed Downing Street., Gove was sacked by a phone call at around 9.15pm last night. The Telegraph claims Gove leaked to the press yesterday morning – before PMQs – that he had asked Johnson to step down as PM.
The BBC reports that Downing Street sources have called Gove a “snake”.
Gove not among candidates to replace PM
Michael Gove is not being tipped to replace the PM despite having been a leadership contender in the wake of the Brexit referendum. Gove had been a key figure in Boris Johnson’s bid to succeed David Cameron in No 10, until he “stabbed” Johnson “in the font” by describing him as unfit to hold the highest office in the land.
Having done what at the time was seen as irreparable damage to Johnson’s aspirations, Gove embarked on his own campaign to be Tory leader and PM but was defeated by Theresa May.
In 2019 Gove once again sidled up to Johnson and helped him topple May over Brexit and then secure a historic general election triumph in December that year.
The government’s attorney general Suella Braverman has thrown her hat into the ring saying she would run for leader. Despite calling for Johnson to go, Braverman has so far not resigned.
Among the favourites to succeed Johnson as Conservative party leader are Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Liz Truss, Ben Wallace and early favourite for the top job, Penny Mordaunt – minister of state at the department of international trade.
Candidates from outside the government include Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee and, Jeremy Hunt the former health secretary.
Johnson admits to private meeting with ex-KGB agent
Elsewhere, the Guardian is reporting that Boris Johnson has admitted to holding a private meeting with an ex-KGB agent when he was foreign secretary.
During yesterday’s meeting with the Liaison Committee, Johnson was pressed about his 2018 meeting with Alexander Lebedev – former owner of the Independent newspaper and ex-KGB agent – during a party at an Italian castle, owned by Lord Evgeny Lebedev.
The BBC reports that Johnson told the select committee chairs he had “certainly met him without officials” being present, adding: “I met him on a very few occasions.”
Security services allegedly warned the government it was a security risk for Johnson to make Evgeny, the son of an ex-KGB colonel,Lord Lebedev of Siberia.
Lord Lebedev was put under sanctions by Canada last month for “directly enabling” Russia’s war in Ukraine. Subsequently, Evgeny Lebedev resigned his directorship from a company related to the Independent.