Michael Gove ‘incapable’ of being Tory leader or Prime Minister – said Michael Gove

Here are eight times Gove said he 'doesn't have what it takes' for the top job


Michael Gove’s bid for Tory leader and Prime Minister has surprised everyone – not least himself.

As he noted in his speech today, the Justice Minister – yes, he’s still Justice Minister – has repeatedly ruled out running for leader, over many years.

What he didn’t say is why.

According to one well-placed source, Gove was considered ‘incapable’ of leading his party, let alone the country, and ‘doesn’t have what it takes’ to do the top job.

That source was Michael Gove.

Here are eight times Gove said he wasn’t up to the task:

  1. When asked about leadership ambitions during the EU campaign, Michael Gove replied:

    ‘I can tell you I’m absolutely not. The one thing I can tell you is there are lots of talented people who could be Prime Minister after David Cameron but count me out.’

    – Michael Gove, Sky News, June 3, 2016

  2. He was more explicit a few weeks earlier: 

    No, I’m not. There…I don’t want to do it and there are people who are far better equipped than me to do it.

    And there are people who have advocated Leave and people who have advocated Remain who are far better than me to do it.’

    – Michael Gove, Telegraph, May 6, 2016

  3. Just two weeks ago he was really hard on himself:

    ‘I don’t think I have got that exceptional level of ability required to do the job.’

    – Michael Gove, Telegraph, June 18, 2016

  4. And that’s just during the EU referendum. Gove had earlier written:

    I don’t have what it takes. […] I have seen David [Cameron] close up on a variety of occasions: he just has an equanimity and a stamina, a sense of calm, good judgment. […]

    ‘The pressure of the job is phenomenal and it takes a toll on you and your family and I don’t think I could do that.’

    – Michael Gove, Financial Times, March 14, 2014

  5. Oh come now. I’m sure we can imagine Michael Gove as Tory leader.

    ‘I am an inconceivable choice as party leader. I don’t want to do it; I wouldn’t do it; it wouldn’t matter how many people asked me to do it — I don’t think there would be very many.’

    – Michael Gove, Sunday Times, September 29, 2013

  6. Alright, so you’re not good enough. Might we not be charitable anyway?

    ‘The one thing I do know having seen David Cameron up close is it takes extraordinary reserves of patience of judgement of character to lead this country and he has it and I don’t and I think it’s important to recognise in life you’ve reached an appropriate point. […]

    ‘There are some us who could be be prime minister, there are others of us who should know their place.

    – Michael Gove, Huffington Post ex-Question Time, March 21, 2013

  7. Look, there are only so many candidates. Perhaps Gove is the best of a bad bunch?

    ‘I think, David Cameron is doing a brilliant job, I think there are lots of other folk, including in the cabinet who could easily be Prime Minister, I am not one of them.

    I could not be Prime Minister, I am not equipped to be Prime Minister, I don’t want to be Prime Minister.’

    – Michael Gove, World At One, BBC Radio Four, October 9, 2012

  8. Gosh. Are you sure you can’t be tempted to take the reins?

    ‘No, I’m constitutionally incapable of it. There’s a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don’t have it.

    There’s an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it’s better not to try.

    – Michael Gove, Standpoint Magazine, March 2012

You have to hand it to the man. He makes a strong case.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: Stephen Crabb is no working class hero – look at his voting record

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.