The Environment Secretary is a front-runner to succeed Theresa May after the Prime Minister yesterday formally tendered her resignation as party leader two weeks after confirming her intention to quit in a tearful Downing Street statement.
He also said he had “the conviction, experience and grip to deliver Brexit” after the Tories were beaten by Labour – and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party – in the Peterborough by-election.
The heavy defeat saw Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – one of Mr Gove’s chief rivals – warn that the Tories will have “no future” unless Brexit is resolved.
Meanwhile, ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was strongly rebuked for suggesting that Parliament could be adjourned until October 31 – the day Britain is due to leave the EU – to thwart opposition from Remain-supporting MPs.
Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born Education Secretary, warned: “When you close down a debate and Parliament, you’re closing down our democracy. The ultimate anti-democrat move. That’s not taking back control it’s taking away control.”
In a call for unity, Mr Gove maintained that people “aren’t interested in raking over what happened” in the 2016 race when he fell out with his Brexiteer ally Boris Johnson, who is favourite for the current contest.
Mr Gove said last night that voters “want to hear about the future – who has the right ideas, the ability and serious approach needed to deliver Brexit and bring the country back together”.
Mr Gove, who was Education Secretary from 2010-14, referenced Mrs Thatcher’s rise to power and defeat of Edward Heath in 1975. “She went on to win in 1979, 1983 and 1987. The lesson is: do the right thing, and you’ll win,” he said.
Defending his willingness to extend the Brext deadline beyond October 31 if a favourable deal for the UK is within his grasp, he added: “I know that if we have an election this autumn, without having delivered Brexit, we face Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
“But if we do deliver a good Brexit deal then we will enjoy a boost as a party and a nation which will put us in a much stronger position for the next electoral test.
“Delivering Brexit and delivering domestic policies which restore hope to forgotten communities, liberate the potential of every individual and make free markets work for everyone will secure the future of our country, and secure electoral victory.”