Is this the end of the ‘Boris-Gove psychodrama’? The Minister who once knifed BoJo is tipped for promotion as Housing or Northern Ireland Secretary in his new Cabinet this week
- Michael Gove is being lined up for promotion by Boris Johnson, it is understood
- The relationship between the two has been described as ‘personal pyschodrama’
- A promotion for Mr Gove would signal that the Johnson administration will be a ‘clean slate’ – both in terms of Mr Gove and for the Conservative Party as a whole
Boris Johnson seen outside his Oxfordshire cottage
Michael Gove is being lined up for promotion by Boris Johnson to signal that he intends to ‘heal the rifts’ in the Tory Party as Prime Minister, The Mail on Sunday understands.
The Environment Secretary could be handed a move to Housing Secretary or Northern Ireland Secretary as Mr Johnson aims to demonstrate that he has forgiven Mr Gove for torpedoing his 2016 leadership bid.
The relationship between the two men, who have known each other since they were students at Oxford University, has been described as a ‘personal pyschodrama’.
As Housing Secretary, Mr Gove – who has established a reputation as one of the most energetic and reforming Ministers of his generation – would be at the forefront of efforts to boost the housing stock and combat Jeremy Corbyn’s electoral grip on priced-out homeowners; in Northern Ireland, Mr Gove would be at the centre of efforts to solve the post-Brexit border problems.
With Mr Johnson expected to emerge from the Tory leadership contest as the comfortable winner over Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday, he is planning to start appointing his Ministers as soon as he enters No 10 late on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of his first Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
A promotion for Mr Gove would signal that the Johnson administration will be a ‘clean slate’ – both in terms of his dealings with Mr Gove and for the Conservative Party as a whole.
A supporter said: ‘The current thinking is to give Michael a bigger job, but not a really big job such as Chancellor or Deputy Prime Minister – otherwise the pyschodrama would start all over again.’
Mr Gove withdrew his backing for Mr Johnson at the last minute in 2016 and decided to run himself – compelling a devastated Mr Johnson to pull out. In this year’s contest, Mr Gove was narrowly beaten into third pace by Mr Hunt amid allegations that the Johnson camp had ‘lent’ votes to Mr Hunt to thwart Mr Gove.
Other key Cabinet decisions are going ‘down to the wire’ – in particular whom Mr Johnson should appoint as his Chancellor.
Pictured: The Boris blimp in Westminster
Home Secretary Sajid Javid remains favourite with Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt in the running to replace him – allowing Mr Johnson to boast that he has a woman in one of the top four offices of state.
There is ongoing turmoil within Mr Johnson’s top team about what to do about Gavin Williamson, after fresh warnings about appointing the sacked former Defence Secretary to a ‘security sensitive’ role.
One source even claimed that Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill had shared evidence of Mr Williamson’s behaviour during the Huawei leaking row with the incoming PM.
Mr Williamson, who helped mastermind Mr Johnson’s landslide leadership victory among MPs is kicking back at claims he could be appointed Leader of the House of Commons, telling friends he believed it to be ‘a non job’. ‘Gavin is sweating about his fate, there is no doubt about that,’ said one friend.
Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is expected to retain her seat at the Cabinet table after executing a ‘pivot’ away from her previously staunch opposition to a No Deal Brexit. Her hopes of a promotion were boosted after receiving gushing text messages from the leadership contender welcoming her ‘back on board’.
A source said: ‘Boris was delighted about the turn-around and said so.’ But Mr Johnson’s allies are still wary about putting such a strong Remain supporter in a more senior role.
One person working on Mr Johnson’s transition into power said he wanted an experienced ‘greybeard’ Cabinet to get Brexit done, before mounting a post-Brexit ‘phase two’ reshuffle ahead of a potential Election. The source said: ‘We need people who know their way around the place for the first big fight. The fresh faces can be unveiled next year for the big fight.’
To that end, former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, 67, is tipped for a return as either Party Chairman or Northern Ireland Secretary.
Brexiteer Priti Patel is also being considered for a job.
As anti-Brexit protesters took to the streets of Westminster yesterday under a Boris ‘blimp’, one Minister supporting Mr Johnson said: ‘Lots of people thinking they are going to leap from the backbenches straight into Cabinet are going to be disappointed.’
£380,000 for trade negotiator who hasn’t struck a single deal
By Harry Cole, Deputy Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
Brexit dividend: Crawford Falconer
Britain’s chief trade negotiator’s pay packet hit £380,000 last year – despite his failing to sign a single new post-Brexit trade deal.
Crawford Falconer is one of Whitehall’s best paid officials on £265,000, but he received an additional £101,000 from the public purse in pension contributions and was handed a £19,000 expenses account to help him relocate to Britain.
The Kiwi trade expert, 66, who has joint New Zealand and British citizenship is the darling of Brexiteers, but his department has been blighted with failure in the run-up to Brexit day in March.
Last year Trade Secretary Liam Fox vowed Britain would have ‘rolled over’ up to 40 of the trade deals the EU has with countries around the world ready for Brexit day.
But in the end only six trade deals were close to completion, eight were ‘off-track’ and an-other 19 were ‘significantly off-track’ by March 2019.
Since then only 11 ‘roll-over’ deals – designed to keep trading arrangements as they are now – have been signed, but no significant negotiations for new deals, such as with the US, have begun.
Brexit department bosses have been given five-figure bonuses and eight Treasury officials have shared a £130,000 bonus pool – including £20,000 for the director responsible for relations with the EU, according to the annual Government spending accounts published this week.
Last night critics seized on our revelations, branding them ‘rewards for failure’. Anti-Brexit group Best For Britain hit out: ‘This is disgusting. The only deal Falconer has negoti-ated is the lucrative one he’s secured for himself.’
Last night a Department for International Trade spokesman said: ‘Crawford Falconer played a key role in securing the signing or agreement in principle of agreements with countries that account for 64 per cent of the UK’s trade with all the countries with which the UK is seeking continuity in the event of a potential No Deal.’
Good news: Hammond’s packing his bags at long last… Bad news: He’s already plotting new PM’s downfall
By Glen Owen, Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
Chancellor Philip Hammond will lead a ‘rebel alliance’ of former Ministers against Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit plans by plotting on a secret WhatsApp group.
Mr Hammond, who is expected to quit the Cabinet next week and was seen loading possessions into his wife’s car at the back of Downing Street yesterday, is believed to have joined forces with more than two dozen pro-Remain Tory MPs, including fellow Ministers, to mount a ‘guerrilla war’ from the backbenches against any attempt by Mr Johnson to leave the EU without a deal on October 31.
The Chancellor last week refused to rule out bringing down a Mr Johnson-led government with a vote of no confidence if he went for the No Deal option, saying ‘I do not exclude anything at the moment’ and vowing to do everything in his power to stop a hard exit.
Exit: Philip Hammond loading a car behind Downing Street on July 20, 2019
Mr Johnson has said he would take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31. On Thursday, MPs voted by a majority of 41 to back a measure aimed at preventing Mr Johnson suspending Parliament in order to force through a No Deal Brexit, with 17 Tories rebelling.
The Chancellor joined Justice Secretary David Gauke, Business Secretary Greg Clark and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart in abstaining. The group, with other former Ministers including Sam Gyimah and Justine Greening, are banding together to form the ‘rebel alliance’.
It is thought they will spend the summer plotting to sabotage Mr Johnson’s plans, including drawing up draft amendments that can be adapted to be applied to any primary legislation in order to try to avert No Deal or the suspension of Parliament.
Mr Hammond, who is expected to quit the Cabinet next week and was seen loading possessions into his wife’s car at the back of Downing Street, is believed to have joined forces with more than two dozen pro-Remain Tory MPs
Mr Hammond is believed to have been seeking backing from City firms to fund staff to help run his operation from the backbenches and has said he intends to draw on his ‘contacts’ from three years at the Treasury to help him.
Meanwhile, The Mail on Sunday has learned that up to six Conservative MPs are due to hold talks with the Liberal Democrats this week to discuss closer cross-party co-operation to thwart Brexit.
Sources close to the talks say they will include the possibility of a vote of no confidence and even the option of Conservative MPs defecting to the anti-Brexit party.
If just four Tory MPs were to switch sides, it would deny Boris Johnson his Tory-DUP majority if, as expected, he is announced as Conservative leader on Tuesday.
The Chancellor last week refused to rule out bringing down a Mr Johnson-led government with a vote of no confidence if he went for the No Deal option, saying ‘I do not exclude anything at the moment’ and vowing to do everything in his power to stop a hard exit
Lib-Dem leadership contender Sir Ed Davey, who served in the Coalition Cabinet with Tory Remainers, is understood to have been approached by Conservatives desperate to stop Boris. He will learn tomorrow if he has won the Lib-Dem leadership. Sources close to Mr Davey said: ‘With the sitting Chancellor Philip Hammond talking openly about voting to bring down his own Government if it pursues a hard Brexit, the growing sense is of numerous Conservative MPs now willing to put country before party.
‘It is uncertain yet exactly where this new level of cross-party co-operation will go but it is clear several Conservative MPs are seriously considering their positions. It clearly has to involve senior Labour MPs too. Ed’s idea of a Government of National Unity is being aired more frequently. But more serious talk of defections is also now there’.
Davey is also understood to be preparing a ‘bold offer’ to some Remain-supporting MPs if Johnson calls an early General Election. At a recent leadership hustings, Davey said: ‘If there are 30 or 40 Conservative or Labour MPs who are committed to demanding a people’s vote on the deal and who say they can no longer work with Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn and they want our help at the General Election, we have to be imaginative… Remain MPs and candidates need to find a way to work together’.
Speaking of the images of Mr Hammond packing his bags, a source close to the Chancellor said: ‘There’s literally nothing to see here – he puts things in his car all the time, as most people do with theirs. He’ll be back on Monday.’
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