Gove jibes at Boris Johnson’s ‘insane’ tax cut plan and ‘submarine’ campaign as Tory rivals are grilled by MPs at leadership hustings
- Tory MPs have grilled some of the leadership candidates at a private hustings
- Michael Gove has launched a series of jabs at the front runner Boris Johnson
- Said Mr Johnson’s tax plan was ‘insane’ and suggested he was avoiding scrutiny
Michael Gove (pictured leaaving a cabinet meeting today) rained jabs on Tory front runner Boris Johnson as he struggled to back on track after the storm over his cocaine use
Michael Gove took a series of swipes at a seemingly ‘unstoppable’ Boris Johnson over his ‘insane’ tax cut plan and ‘submarine’ campaign today as Tory rivals were grilled by MPs.
The Environment Secretary rained jabs on the front runner as he struggled to back on track after the storm over his cocaine use.
Mr Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Sajid Javid were all taking part in a ‘beauty parade’ staged by the Tory 1922 committee.
The contenders appear to be vying for second place in the first round of voting on Thursday, with Mr Johnson well ahead in terms of public pledges of support.
Boris Johnson has solidified his bid after racking up more support in the leadership battle – gaining a boost by a fresh round of endorsements, including from Iain Duncan Smith.
Mr Johnson also topped a poll at a hustings event with the right-wing 92 group of MPs last night, gaining more than double the votes as Brexiteer rival Dominic Raab.
Backbenchers claimed Mr Gove’s bombshell confession that he took cocaine two decades ago had ‘f***ed’ him and ‘handed the whole show to Boris’, as he would now probably face a far less potent threat from Jeremy Hunt in the run-off ballot of Conservative members.
Allies of Mr Gove said he spoke during today’s event about appealing to women and young people, and set out his stall on education and security.
However, they insisted ‘nothing at all’ came up about his admission of cocaine use – which threw his pitch for the top job into chaos.
Boris Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) has been boosted by a fresh round of endorsements after the Tory contest kicked off for real, including from Iain Duncan Smith
He was asked by the Chancellor Philip Hammond if he would rule out withdrawing from the battle, and apparently replied: ‘100 per cent I will do that – we can’t have another coronation.’
Supporter Nicky Morgan said he also raised the fact that Mr Johnson – who formally launches his campaign tomorrow – seemed determined to minimise his public exposure to avoid gaffes.
‘One of the things that Michael said is that when he was head of the Vote Leave campaign he did not shy away from fronting up to press scrutiny. We all know who’s not been seen very much by the press,’ Mrs Morgan said.
How will the Tory leader battle play out?
Three more Tory hopefuls – Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Rory Stewart – are formally launching their leadership campaigns today.
They were among 10 hopefuls who had reached the threshold of eight endorsements from MPs when nominations closed last night.
One contender, Sam Gyimah, dropped out admitting he does not have the support.
Now the candidates have been finalised, MPs will start whittling them down in a series of votes.
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This will be another critical day, as the first ballot takes place.
Anyone with fewer than 16 votes will be automatically eliminated, and at least one will be ejected.
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Further rounds of voting will take place during June until there are just two candidates left by this point.
They will then go to a run-off ballot of the 160,000 Tory members.
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The winner is due to be declared this week.
They will take over from Mrs May as PM shortly afterwards – probably in time to take a session of PMQs before the Commons breaks up for its summer recess.
Earlier, Mr Gove was interviewed at the Time CEO summit in London, attacking Mr Johnson’s plan to give higher earners a £10billion tax cut by raising the 40p threshold to £80,000.
He said it is ‘insane’ to have policies skewed towards the wealthy, sniping that his rival is ‘mistaken’.
Mr Gove said: ‘You can come from my own background but if your priorities seem to be skewed towards the already fortunate in society that’s insane.’
Pressed on whether he was discussing Mr Johnson’s tax proposals, Mr Gove was received with laughter when he replied: ‘I wasn’t thinking of any one particular candidate, but I do think his tax proposals are mistaken.
‘I think that there are two tests that I would apply to any tax cut. Does it par economic growth and does it help the most disadvantaged in our society?
‘A tax cut that concentrates on helping the wealthiest pensioners most of all is not a tax cut which either improves productivity or generates a greater level of social equity.’
Asked if Mr Johnson has the focus, discipline and judgment, Mr Gove said: ‘Well, we will find out during this race.
‘Boris was a great mayor of London, it was enjoyable working with him as a foreign secretary and he now has the opportunity to set out his stall and to be judged, as all the candidates will be, on the basis of his ideas and policies.’
Mr Gove warned Tories that the party will lose a general election if they do not deliver the result of the EU referendum.
‘There’s no way a Conservative Party leader can win a general election if Brexit is not delivered,’ he said.
He ruled out doing any deal with Nigel Farage’s insurgent Brexit Party, before he was questioned further about his admission that he took cocaine in the 1990s.
Asked what led him to take the class A drug, he replied: ‘We are all sinners in a fallen world.’
He remained resilient at a suggestion he had been damaged by the fallout and, asked whether he would stand aside in his bid for Number 10, bluntly answered: ‘No.’
Jeremy Hunt (pictured in Downing Street today) has been grilled by Tory MPs at a hustings
Launching his campaign today, Aid Secretary Rory Stewart berated his leadership rivals as false prophets of ‘negativity’, insisting politicians need to rediscover their sense of ‘shame’
Launching his campaign today, Aid Secretary Rory Stewart berated his leadership rivals as false prophets of ‘negativity’, insisting politicians need to rediscover their sense of ‘shame’ and stop pretending there was an easy way around the Brexit issue.
In a stinging rebuke seemingly aimed at Boris Johnson at the packed launch in Westminster, he said: ‘I don’t believe in promising what we cannot deliver.’
Mr Stewart has won many fans for his energetic pitch for the top job over the past fortnight, touring the country and urging members of the public to ‘come and talk to me’.
His aides claimed there were 500 members of the public at the launch, but the staunch supporter of Theresa May’s deal is still considered an outside bet – and some MPs claimed he had a ‘meltdown’ at a hustings event in Parliament last night.
Ten candidates will go into the first round of voting on Thursday after pro-Remain former minister Sam Gyimah pulled with an admission he had been unable to build enough support.
Former Conservative Party leader William Hague today warned that the next Tory leader could only survive if they have a clear plan to end the deadlock over Brexit, expressing concern that not all the leading candidates in the contest are ready for what will ‘hit them’ if they succeed.
Mr Johnson’s closest rivals are Mr Gove and Mr Hunt, who have around half as many public endorsements.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Hague said that without a proper plan for dealing with Brexit, the next prime minister would head a ‘sandcastle administration’ which would quickly crumble.
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