Brexit

Tory leadership race twist after leaked email from Michael Gove's wife on Boris Johnson

Justice Secretary Michael Gove and wife Sarah Vine leaving Spencer House, London, after the wedding reception for Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall in March.

MICHAEL Gove's wife urged her husband to play hardball with Boris Johnson before making any promises of support in the Tory leadership contest, an email she accidentally sent to a member of the public revealed.

Sarah Vine said the justice secretary must secure a specific guarantee about his future before making any deal.

Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, which Mrs Vine writes a column for, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, "instinctively dislike" Mr Johnson, she wrote.

In an email to Mr Gove and his team, which was passed to Sky News, she wrote: "Very important that we focus on the individual obstacles and thoroughly overcome them before moving to the next. I really think Michael needs to have a Henry or a Beth with him for this morning's crucial meetings.

"One simple message: You MUST have SPECIFIC from Boris OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support. The details can be worked out later on, but without that you have no leverage.

"Crucially, the membership will not have the necessary reassurance to back Boris, neither will Dacre/Murdoch, who instinctively dislike Boris but trust your ability enough to support a Boris Gove ticket.

"Do not concede any ground. Be your stubborn best.

"GOOD LUCK."

Sources close to Mr Gove said the contents of the email were Mrs Vine's personal opinion.

A spokesman for Mr Gove said: "We don't comment on private email exchanges or conversations."

Meanwhile former defence secretary Liam Fox will run to become the Conservative Party's next leader and prime minister.

Dr Fox becomes the latest senior Tory to throw his hat into the ring after Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb launched his campaign to replace David Cameron in Number 10.

Favourites Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Theresa May are yet to formally enter the race but are building support among Tory MPs and ministers.

Sources close to Dr Fox confirmed that he would stand for the leadership again, having lost to Mr Cameron in 2005.

Dr Fox resigned in 2011 after being found guilty of breaching the ministerial code over his links with self-styled adviser Adam Werritty, whom he met 40 times in the Ministry of Defence and on trips abroad.

The Leave supporter will hope to draw support from the right of the party in the race to replace the prime ]minister, who announced his intention to quit in the wake of the EU referendum defeat.

Mr Crabb vowed to make curbing immigration a "red line" in Brexit negotiations if he takes the keys to Number 10 as he set out a vision to unite the deeply divided party and country following the vote to leave the EU. The Work and Pensions Secretary, whose running mate is Business Secretary Sajid Javid, acknowledged he was the "underdog" but said the contest should not be a "two-horse race" between the "Boris/Stop Boris" candidates.

And yesterday senior backbencher David Davis, a former leadership contender, threw his weight behind Mr Johnson.

"The biggest issue in front of us for the next several years is going to be managing Brexit, bringing about the improvement in our trade position, the control of our borders – all of those things," he told the BBC's Daily Politics.

"That needs vision, optimism, energy, drive – Boris has got them."

Mr Davis said Mr Johnson would enjoy the support of large numbers of Tory MPs: "I would be amazed if he is not already passing 100."

But Mr Crabb and Mr Javid positioned themselves as the "blue collar" alternatives to Old Etonian Mr Johnson.

Mr Crabb highlighted his childhood in Wales where he had a "fabulous education at a really good comprehensive school across the road from the council house where I lived".

He also delivered a swipe at the former mayor over Mr Johnson's previous comments on the leadership: "On the rainy rugby fields of West Wales I learned that it is not a question of waiting for the ball to pop out of the back of the scrum. If you want it, you do what's required."

Mr Crabb said there could be no "stepping back" from the referendum result and ruled out a second ballot.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Brexit