Harold Wilson’s famous dictum that “a week is a long time in politics” has never seemed like less of an understatement. In seven days we have witnessed a change in British politics on a scale and at a pace that’s unprecedented. It’s the largest domestic upheaval this country has seen since the beginning of the Second World War, and it has been fascinating for many many reasons.

One of these reasons has been observing the political relationships. We’ve seen some characters. Who could forget Dominic Cummings performance before the Treasury Select Committee or the continual threat of legal action by Aaron Banks. But one group that – in light of recent developments – is really interesting is the Gove, Boris, Cameron love triangle.

Having renegotiated terms with Brussels in February and making his recommendation that the UK should Remain in the EU clear, Cameron was personally hurt when his close friend and ally, Michael Gove, announced he was all for Brexit. This man – the godfather to Cameron’s late son Ivan, whose wife is the godmother to Cameron’s youngest daughter – had, the Prime Minster allegedly felt, betrayed him. “They were close family friends, but not anymore”, a “well placed source” is quoted as saying.

And now, to rub salt into the wound, Mr Gove has, it seems, gone one step further.

But has he?

On the face of things, Gove’s Machiavellian move yesterday morning can be viewed as further justification that he is only in this for himself. One could argue that he stabbed his close friend in the back not once, but twice. And that’s before we consider the bomb he’s effectively detonated underneath Boris Johnson’s hopes and desires, and which may have ultimately ended the former London mayor’s political ambitions altogether.

But perhaps things aren’t as they seem.

As the Westminster bubble collectively wondered “Et tu Govë?”, I couldn’t help wonder if Gove has orchestrated this. We’re told – admittedly by his wife, Sarah Vine – that “Cameron was not supposed to go. This was not what this referendum was about; that was not why Michael backed Leave”. In the same column, she speaks of “the agony of what the business of politics [has] done to the people at the heart of all this: how old friends had been wrenched apart in the most brutal of ways.”

Is it conceivable, therefore, that this is Gove’s last hurrah? That by announcing his candidacy and simultaneously seeing off Boris Johnson, he is taking one for the team? Perhaps he is not really expecting to win, and he must know his action has hurt his reputation and quite possibly his future career prospects.

He is, it seems, a ‘genuine’ Brexiteer. Someone who truly believed in the Vote Leave cause. But is he also someone who now looks backwards from victory and regrets the hurt his decision has caused?

By attempting to facilitate the coronation of Theresa May to the leadership, rather than the PM’s old adversary Boris Johnson, is it possible that Gove’s decision to declare is an olive branch to the Camerons?

 

Michael Gove at Policy Exchange delivering his keynote speech ‘The Importance of Teaching’” by Policy Exchange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.