COKE-shame Tory Michael Gove tried to revive his leadership hopes yesterday — with a jibe about Boris Johnson’s sex life.
Gove urged his rival: “Whatever you do, don’t pull out.” MPs said it was a dig at the collapse of Boris’s marriage and his relationship with a younger Tory activist.
With his reputation damaged by his admission he took cocaine more than 20 years ago, Gove accused Johnson of being wrong on Brexit and dodging TV debates.
But the Environment Secretary shocked onlookers at his campaign launch when he appeared to mock Johnson’s love life.
He predicted the Tory contest will come down to a straight fight between the pair and added: “This is what I will say to Mr Johnson, whatever you do, don’t pull out.”
As his supporters laughed, he went on: “I know you have before… And I know you may not believe in your heart you can do it.
“But the Conservative Party deserves a choice.”
SWIPE AT JOHNSON’S COLOURFUL PRIVATE LIFE
Many interpreted the the jibe as a swipe at Johnson’s colourful private life. The twice-married ex-Foreign Secretary has been accused of multiple affairs. Last year his marriage to Marina Wheeler collapsed amid rumours of a relationship with younger Tory activist Carrie Symonds.
Gove later insisted he was merely referring to the Tory leadership contest in 2016 in which Johnson pulled out at the last minute.
But one unconvinced Tory MP said: “It’s a disgraceful smear on Boris’ reputation and it sums Michael up. He thinks he’s being a comedian but it’s quite sinister.”
Mr Gove refused to say yesterday whether he would give Johnson a job in his Cabinet.”
But he criticised Johnson’s plan for a £10billion tax giveaway for big earners. Gove said he never use the system to “give the already wealthy another tax cut”.
Gove also said his former Vote Leave colleague was wrong to insist Britain would leave the EU on October 31 whether a deal had been agreed or not.
He said such an inflexible position would lead to a General Election and see Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in No10 by Christmas.
Gove added: “I’d be willing to delay for a day or a week or whatever’s required in order to get that deal over the line if we were making progress.”
His attack came as it was announced 10 MPs have enough support to stand in the contest to replace Theresa May as Tory leader — and PM. Remainer Sam Gyimah crashed out after only getting the backing of three MPs — seven short of the minimum.
Gove’s critics said he was clearly trying to draw a line under revelations about his historic cocaine use by shifting attention back onto his closest rival.
He admitted on Saturday using cocaine on several occasions and said he deeply regretted the mistake. Senior Tories yesterday predicted his campaign was “finished.”
They said Party members, who will decided which of the final two candidates becomes leader, will never vote for someone who had taken Class A drugs.
One said a handful of Tory MPs who pledged to back Gove were now having “second thoughts”.
Gove was yesterday repeatedly asked about his cocaine use.
He acknowledged his mistake but said it should not and would not disqualify him from the most important job in the country.
Gove also outlined a wave of policies to support his pitch, from abolishing rates for small and medium sized business, to introducing an insurance scheme to pay for social care and increasing spending on schools.
Gove supporter Bob Neill said: “Michael is talking powerfully and persuasively about the really big issues that confront our country –and with a properly worked out plan to tackle them.”
But bookies priced Johnson as 8-11 favourite ahead of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at 5-1. Gove had drifted from 13-1 to 16-1.
One Johnson supporter said: “Michael’s attacking our man to take attention away from the drugs. I think people will see through that.”
Johnson yesterday insisted he was the man to deliver both Brexit and an election victory.
He told the Eurosceptic ’92 Group: “I have a record of winning elections. In 2012 when I defeated Ken Livingston, a far more sophisticated politician than Jeremy Corbyn, I beat him when our party was 17 points behind in the polls. I can beat the Labour left again.”
Lorraine Kelly appeared to snub ex-GMTV colleague and leadership hopeful Esther McVey yesterday.
During a live link from Good Morning Britain, where McVey was a guest, Lorraine was asked: “Do you remember Esther McVey from her GMTV days?” Lorraine curtly said: “Yeah, yes I do. OK, coming up after half past eight…”
Michael Gove admits taking cocaine as would-be PM reveals ‘deep regret’ over drug past
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