Brexiteer and former mayor of London Boris Johnson has unexpectedly pulled out of the Tory leadership contest.
Johnson announced he would not be running for prime minster as Michael Gove declared his bid, saying Boris can’t provide the leadership.
Justice Secretary, Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May now lead a five-way race to be the next Conservative Party leader and UK prime minister.
May, who campaigned against the Brexit, will present herself as the unity candidate to bring the divided Tory party and the country back together following Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union.
The BBC reports:
Mr Gove was a surprise addition to the race, having been expected to back Boris Johnson, who shocked the political world by ruling himself out.
Minister Andrea Leadsom, MP Liam Fox and Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb are also in the running.
The winner of the contest is set to be announced on 9 September.
The leadership battle has been sparked by David Cameron’s decision to step down as prime minister after losing the EU referendum, which saw the country vote by 52% to 48% to leave the EU.
Mr Gove’s announcement early on Thursday that he would challenge the leadership was unexpected, as the justice secretary had been expected to throw his weight behind fellow leading Leave campaigner Mr Johnson for Conservative leader.
Explaining his decision, he said: “I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be prime minister. That has always been my view. But events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me.
“I respect and admire all the candidates running for the leadership. In particular, I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future.
“But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”