MICHAEL GOVE emerged to my surprise last night as joint favourite to take over as Tory leader.
Not that I think he is the wrong candidate for the job. Far from it. I have been a fan of the Aberdeen fishmonger’s son for a quarter of a century.
‘Michael Gove emerged to my surprise last night as joint favourite to take over as Tory leader’
As Education Secretary, he proved he has the brain and balls to take on both Brussels and the public sector “Blob” he blames for sabotaging effective government.
But his credibility seemed shot after he signed up to Mrs May’s botched BRINO — Brexit In Name Only.
He was also bruised by his reputation for knifing his pal David Cameron and then fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson. Friends claim he did not want to be labelled with a third count of disloyalty.
Today his judgment seems rather shrewd, coupled with his recent morale-boosting Commons attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s Marxist rabble.
Faced with the risk of losing Brexit altogether — and likely defeat in a snap election — there is an outside chance BRINO will limp over the line at the third time of asking.
If DUP MPs sign up — and if Theresa May promises to step aside — Brexiteers might fall in behind.
There are too many “ifs” in that sentence for comfort but despite Speaker John Bercow’s chicanery, a last-gasp victory is still possible. Which puts Mr Gove, 51, up against a cavalry of leadership rivals.
Getty Images – Getty ‘Deputy PM’ David Lidington is an even bigger surprise as joint-favourite for the role
AFP or licensors ‘Boris will win if his name is on the final shortlist for party members’
AFP or licensors Dominic Raab could be a winner ‘if he is the only Brexiteer on the shortlist’
4/1 DAVID LIDINGTON, 62. The “deputy PM” is an even bigger surprise as joint-favourite. He is mooted by Europhile ministers such as Amber Rudd as caretaker PM if Mrs May is dumped.
Leavers including ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith are dismayed by their “appalling disloyalty”.
“They should be censured, sacked or, at the very least, apologise and they should shut up,” he stormed yesterday.
7/1 BORIS JOHNSON, 54. The ex-Foreign Secretary will win if his name is on the final shortlist for party members — which is why Remainers and Mrs May herself will do anything to stop him.
Bojo, a proven election-winner, is sleeker and slimmer since splitting with wife Marina and teaming up with glamorous Carrie Symonds, 31. Significantly, he was twice invited as a powerbroker into No10 last week to save her deal. Might yet be persuaded.
10/1 DOMINIC RAAB, 45. This experienced international lawyer was picked by Mrs May for his knowhow on world trade negotiations. He resigned after being sidelined in favour of Whitehall EU fanatic Olly Robbins. A winner if he is the only Brexiter on the shortlist.
10/1 JEREMY HUNT, 52. Smooth-talking Foreign Secretary and multi-millionaire businessman.
Mr Hunt switched to become a Leaver after voting in 2016 to stay in the EU. Brexiteers are suspicious of late converts, especially those who remained in Cabinet under Mrs May.
14/1 SAJID JAVID, 49. This son of a Pakistani bus driver who rose to become Home Secretary should be a frontrunner for the top job.
But like Jeremy Hunt, he is haunted by his decision to back Remain despite posing as a strong Eurosceptic.
22/1 ANDREA LEADSOM, 55. The Commons Leader would be PM now if she hadn’t flunked her leadership bid and blocked Gove.
She has forged new respect by taking on slyly vicious Speaker Bercow.
Unranked dark horse MATT HANCOCK, 40. The new Health Secretary suffers from being a George Osborne protege. But even Brexiteers believe him to be his own man.
A prominent Leaver tells me: “Matt is highly intelligent, extraordinarily able. He has the potential to be PM.”
If politics is a numbers game, here are some 2016 referendum statistics to help MPs as they weigh up their options for Theresa May’s successor.
Leave won in the 2016 Referendum by 17.4million against Remain’s 16.1million.
Leave constituencies outnumbered Remain by 406 to 242.
CommentTIME’S UP, THERESA Theresa May has shown courage but to deliver Brexit she must RESIGN CommentTHE SUN ON SUNDAY SAYS After Brexit mess, we’ll be stuck for some time with a lame-duck PM CommentTONY PARSONS MPs are set to betray the biggest vote ever… they must expect a backlash CommentSIR GRAHAM BRADY It’s time to settle this Brexit mess and get out of the EU with a deal CommentKARREN BRADY You wouldn’t quiz Liam Payne on childcare, so why ask Sophie Ellis Bextor? CommentJAMES FORSYTH Theresa May must go to get her deal through or we may have no Brexit at all
Of these, Tory Leavers outnumbered Remainers by 247 to 80 and Labour’s by 148 to 84.
In Parliament, 160 MPs support Leave, while 486 back Remain.
There is a message about our future political stability in those figures.
AFP or licensors ‘Sajid Javid – a frontrunner for the top job’
AFP or licensors Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom would be PM now if she hadn’t flunked her leadership bid
AFP or licensors Even Brexiteers believe Matt Hancock to be his own man
GEORGE’S PROJECT FEARSKIGEORGE OSBORNE, who uses his Russian-owned London freesheet as a bugle for discredited Project Fear, has broken cover for his first interview since being sacked as Chancellor.Osborne sparked fears of economic ruin, jobs carnage and collapsing house prices if we dared vote Out.
Now he claims No Deal will create a medicines crisis and turn Kent into a car park.
Britain has proved him wrong, with investment rising, more jobs and higher pay – while his beloved European Union lumbers towards recession and life on the dole for under-25s. As the ex-Chancellor told me afterwards: “All’s fair in love and war.” Or to put it another way, a lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.
Theresa May brings Brexiteers to Chequers for crunch showdown