Monday 27 February 2017

Broken alliances and bad blood in fight for British independence

As Michael Gove has shown, politicians and principles trump friendship, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

DITCHED: Despite misgivings about the prospect of Boris Johnson as PM, he was ‘a man for this time’. Photo: Yui Mok/PA
DITCHED: Despite misgivings about the prospect of Boris Johnson as PM, he was ‘a man for this time’. Photo: Yui Mok/PA

What a week it's been at Westminster. UK voters have instructed their politicians to leave the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron has handed in his notice, leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has been abandoned by almost his entire parliamentary party because he was such a useless Remain campaigner, and Boris Johnson, poster-boy for Leave and expected to be the next incumbent of Number 10 Downing Street, has been defenestrated by his close ally Michael Gove, who is now standing for the office he always said he didn't want and was unsuited for.

Last weekend I wrote that though I had severe misgivings about the prospect of Boris as prime minister, he was "a man for this time". I hoped his combination of internationalism, charisma, optimism and humour could steady and unite the UK and disarm the EU and that his team could do the patient work that bores and repels him and for which he has no aptitude.

Gove thought that too until very recently, but having changed his mind, finds himself charged with the double betrayal of close friends by bringing about David Cameron's downfall and wrecking Johnson's bid for power. (It's an exaggeration in the case of Boris, who is essentially a loner who doesn't make close friendships.)

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