LONDON — Over the past week, journalists across Britain, living in what can best be described as Alice-in-Wonderland-times, have become used to expecting the unexpected.

And Friday did not disappoint, with the anti-European Union Daily Mail tabloid backing Conservative Party politician Theresa May to become the next British prime minister.

The paper could have been expected to support a leader who backed Brexit, such as Michael Gove, the justice secretary. May, the home secretary, campaigned for Britain to remain in the E.U., although some say  her support was lukewarm.

Gove's wife Sarah Vine happens to be a star columnist at the Daily Mail. In a leaked email from Vine to her husband sent earlier in the week, Vine suggested that the media bosses of the Daily Mail and the Sun weren’t fond of Boris Johnson, the former London mayor leading the campaign to leave the E.U., but that they would “trust your ability enough to support a Boris/Gove ticket.”


In its editorial, the Daily Mail said of May that “she is a serious-minded woman, with an ethic of public service and an enormous capacity for hard work and attention to detail. In this respect, and in her steeliness, she is somewhat reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher.”

The paper praised Gove for his intelligence, but said it could not back him for prime minister.

“A great irony of his surprise decision to throw his hat into the leadership ring yesterday is that in the very act of doing so, he raised question marks over the qualities so many have come to admire in him: consistency, strict adherence to principle and, yes, trustworthiness,” it said.

A quick recap for those not watching the upending of Britain's political system on television with a bowl of popcorn (highly recommended): Last week, Britain voted to leave the European Union. This triggered the resignation of the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who wanted Britain to stay in, and opened a leadership race that many thought would be easily won by Johnson.

But on Thursday, Gove said that, actually, he could no longer support Johnson to become prime minister. In fact, he said he would be throwing his hat into the race for the keys to 10 Downing Street. Johnson pulled out of the race shortly after.

In other words: It was a dream day for headline writers. “BREXECUTED,” shouted the Sun tabloid. “An act of midnight treachery,” said the Telegraph, while the Guardian ran with "The betrayal."  The Metro featured the heads of Gove, Johnson and May with the headline “The Real Game of Thrones.”

In a speech on Friday launching his leadership bid, Gove insisted that he didn’t want to become the next prime minister, but said that he had little choice because he had lost faith that Johnson was up for the job.

“I did almost everything not to be a candidate for the leadership of this party,” he said, triggering much sneering on social media.

On Friday morning, he laid out his vision for a post-Brexit Britain, and pitched himself as a candidate for change, as opposed to May, who is seen more as a safe pair of hands.

He also said that he did not have charisma, but instead was a politician with deep convictions.

"Whatever charisma is, I don't have it,” he said, during a lengthy speech that bumped television footage of the nation marking the Battle of Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British army.

But he said: “It’s not important to be liked, it’s important to be respected.”

Not sure if he achieved that on Friday. For your viewing pleasure, here some of the front pages of the British newspapers.

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