FOR someone who professed repeatedly to have never had an interest in becoming Prime Minister, Michael Gove not only had a comprehensive Prime Ministerial bid to hand but a Whitehall masterplan in his back pocket too.
He claimed, of course, he had toiled through the night on his vision for Britain’s future, and said some of its content had been released before, but the Justice Secretary will find it hard to convince members his blueprint has not been in existence for quite some time.
Fresh from ending the Prime Ministerial ambition of close ally Boris Johnson by his decision to run for the top job himself, Mr Gove was his usual bright and chirpy self, proclaiming that he alone has a “heart burning with the desire” to make Brexit a reality.
His leadership bid at the Policy Exchange think tank’s headquarters near Parliament was the length of a typical Tory Party conference speech, and was wide-ranging on policy ideas and Brexit.
He raised the bar for front-runner Theresa May, who will have to work on something far more comprehensive in the coming days.
“I never thought I’d ever be in this position,” he said. “I did not want it, indeed I did almost everything not to be a candidate for the leadership of this party.
“I was so very reluctant because I know my limitations. Whatever charisma is I don’t have it, whatever glamour may be I don’t think anyone could ever associate me with it.
“But – at every step in my political life – I’ve asked myself one question. What is the right thing to do? What does your heart tell you?”
His speech was littered with sentiment and emotion and repeated reflection that he had been guided by his heart.
His outpourings of emotion came to a swift halt, however, when he was asked repeatedly to account for saying he had no confidence in Mr Johnson, despite working on the Vote Leave campaign with him for three months, and knowing him for more than thirty years.
Asked how he would overcome his acts of “treachery”, including his decision not to help the Prime Minister with his Remain campaign, he said: “It was a wrench, boy it was a wrench to part company with the Prime Minister, who I have known for so long and who I admire so much, but as I hope I made clear in this speech if you’re a politician you are not paid to tend to your own feelings, you are paid to lay out your beliefs and convictions clearly.”
He said he did not discuss his leadership bid with Chancellor George Osborne and that his own wife Sarah Vine encouraged him not to stand – but she did back him now.
Immigration should be reduced in the UK with an Australian points style system, he claimed, as he rattled through a list of priorities if he is chosen to be the next Prime Minister.
This will pour further salt into Boris Johnson’s wounds after his piece in the Daily Telegraph this week, which was approved by Mr Gove, toned down the link between fears over immigration and the decision to vote Brexit.
He maintained that £350m is the gross sum sent to the European Union each week, which will be taken back under British control and spent on the country’s priorities and he pledged an extra £100m a week for the NHS.
Also on his agenda was “excess pay” in the City and the boardroom and he said capitalism should work in a way that helps the poor.
On Brexit, he said Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty would not need to be implemented in 2016, and played down Scotland’s talks with Brussels, maintaining there will be no second independence referendum.
He said: “I have gone into more detail on policy than any other candidate so far.”
MICHAEL GOVE was born in Edinburgh and spent the first four months of his life in care.
He was adopted by his parents Ernie and Christine, who later adopted his sister and raised the family in Aberdeen.
Mr Gove, 48, said: “I remember my mum explaining to me what adoption meant when I was still at primary school. ‘Son, you didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it’. Whatever else I know, I know if you invest love and care in any individual you can help them make a difference.
“My parents took a risk on me not knowing a thing about me. They believed in everyone there is potential.”