As the race to succeed Young Dave as the next Tory leader gets serious - as in serious enough for London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to end up looking like so much roadkill after Michael “Oiky” Gove stabbed him in the back - a new aspect of the campaign is not just for candidates to promote themselves, but to dish as much dirt as they deem necessary on others to damage their chances.
With initial measures of support suggesting that disgraced former minister Liam Fox is, thankfully, not being taken seriously even by his fellow Tory MPs, and Home Secretary Theresa May being almost certain to get on the ballot of party members, that leaves “Oiky” scrapping with Stephen Crabb and Andrea Leadsom for the other berth. This is the context in which the “stop Gove” bandwagon has begun to roll.
This brand of spectator sport is one in which participation is not limited to Tory MPs: anyone with a large enough megaphone can join in, and so the right-leaning press has done so, with the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail immediately propagandising in Ms May’s favour. And despite Rupert Murdoch’s enthusiasm for Gove, the Sun has not exactly been helping his cause.
Indeed, the paper’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn has told readers “Michael Gove’s No10 bid being plotted by controversial ‘tactical genius’ Dominic Cummings … The Tory leadership candidate is joined at the hip to the 'abrasive' Leave campaign mastermind”, suggesting that “Oiky” was being economical with the actualité when he said he would not take Cummings into 10 Downing Street if he won.
Meanwhile, the Dacre doggies at the Mail are indulging in a little codology, telling their readers “Dark horse Andrea Leadsom is surging past Gove in the battle to take on Theresa May as 30 Johnson MPs line up to back her”. Well, yes, it’s true that some who backed Bozza will back Ms Leadsom - or indeed anyone else - in preference to Gove, after his act of treachery. But that is not the point of this storyline.
The real purpose of the article is to talk up Ms Leadsom to the extent that she gets on the Tory members’ ballot - and Gove, therefore, does not. If “Oiky” falls at the first hurdle, that is Job Done for the Mail. All that would then be needed would be for Ms May to buy off Ms Leadsom with one of the big offices of state - her own would fall vacant if she moved into Downing Street - and Dacre would have got the PM of his preference.
If both of the two best selling papers in the UK will not back Gove, with one talking up anyone else, and the other pitching warnings against letting Dominic Cummings near the levers of power, that means the knives are out for “Oiky”. With Stephen Crabb’s support holding firm, it’s possible that the man who knifed Bozza will have to fight it out for fourth place with Liam Fox. Nobody wants to reward the school sneak.
Yes, hopefully very soon now, there will go Michael Gove, on his way … out.