Gove's announcement meant the "leave" vote would be split, making Theresa May the strongest contender. Johnson, knowing only he or Gove could really run, decided to back out. Almost everyone in Britain was shocked. Gove had made a huge decision: betraying his ally and throwing himself into a race he had previously indicated he didn't want to run. But exactly how Gove hoped to tell Johnson of all this is rather unclear.
And like a bad teenage romance, there are now disputed timelines, alleged breaches in breakup protocol and accusations of duplicity.
Speaking at the launch of his campaign, Gove said he had tried personally to reach Johnson before he announced his decision but couldn't get through. "I tried repeatedly to ring Boris and to speak to him," Gove said, according to the Evening Standard. In the end, he had to call Australian strategist Lynton Crosby, who had been working with Johnson, to explain his decision. The Financial Times reports that the call to Crosby came at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, while the Telegraph pegs it at about 8:53 a.m., adding that Gove told Cosby he was going to call Johnson himself to let him know.
Either way, a little after 9 that morning, an email went out to journalists not only announcing Gove's intention to run for leader of the Conservatives – but that Johnson wasn't up to the job. Meanwhile, Johnson's camp says that despite Gove's claims that he tried to reach the former London mayor personally, they had no missed calls. Asked about Gove's betrayal Friday, Johnson – a skilled orator known for his powers of wit and persuasion – seemed to be genuinely at a loss for words.
Adding fuel to the suggestions of impropriety was an email sent out by Gove's wife, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, which suggested that Gove should not support Johnson's leadership bid unless he had "SPECIFIC assurances." The email was inadvertently sent to a member of the public who then passed it on to Sky News, though whether it was really an accident or not depends on who you talk to.
What's clear is this: Gove was a longtime supporter of the campaign to leave the E.U. and seems to have not trusted Johnson, a former Brussels-based reporter whose feelings often seemed mixed, to be in charge of the Brexit procedures. And as the adopted son of a fishmonger from Aberdeen, Gove may have had little personal rapport with the wealthy, Oxford-educated Johnson.
But Gove isn't the only British politician to flout breakup rules recently. The Labour Party's embattled Jeremy Corbyn has been criticized in the past for telling his cabinet ministers that they were out of a spot via text message. Johnson's own political dumpings haven't been much better, either. A friend of Cameron's for decades (the pair were members of one infamous dining club at Oxford University in the 1980s), Johnson is reported to have told the prime minister that he was breaking from him and planning to back Brexit with a text sent just five minutes before it was made public.
While Cameron told the public that he was "disappointed, but Boris remains a friend," privately there were signs of more than a little discord. Last Friday, when Cameron decided that he was going to step down as prime minister, it took Johnson completely by surprise.
"Why should I do the hard s---?" he told his aides after his resignation, the Sun later reported.
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