London, July 1 (IANS) Former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s allies have accused Michael Gove of a “calculated plot” to destroy the lead Brexit campaigner’s hopes of becoming Conservative leader by stealing his support in an act of “midnight treachery”, The Telegraph online reported on Friday.
Johnson is now considering whether to support Home Secretary Theresa May, the current hot favourite, after being forced to withdraw from the contest, the report added.
The report quotes friends of the former Mayor as saying that there was a “very deep pit reserved in hell” for Gove as they alleged that the Justice Secretary had been plotting to stand as a candidate for months.
Johnson, who was a firm favourite to succeed incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron until Wednesday night, was taken by surprise when fellow Brexit campaigner Gove decided to enter the contest after a late-night change of heart.
Within couple of hours after Gove entered the fray, Johnson announced his withdrawal saying he had too little support among MPs to stand for the leadership.
He said: “Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances of Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me.”
“This was a carefully planned assassination,” an ally said. “It was systematic and calculated to do the maximum damage to Boris.
“When he saw his opportunity for an act of midnight treachery he took it.”
Johnson’s allies claim to see the “hand of George Osborne” in the plot and expect the Chancellor to come out in favour of Gove. The claim has been denied by Gove’s aides.
However, Gove insisted he had only decided to stand after concluding that Johnson was unsuitable for the leadership.
Gove said: “Boris is a big character with great abilities and I enjoyed working with him in the referendum campaign, when he campaigned with great energy and enthusiasm.
“But there is something special about leading a party and leading a country, and I had the opportunity in the last few days to assess whether or not Boris could lead that team and build that unity.”
“And I came reluctantly but firmly to the conclusion that while Boris has many talents and attributes, he wasn’t capable of building that team. And there were a number of people who had said to me during the course of the week, ‘Michael it should be you’.”