Theresa May’s precarious premiership is looking more precarious than ever. Last week, in response to May’s latest Brexit plan, two cabinet ministers resigned, along with multiple junior ministers. In addition, the European Research Group — an army of Tory rebels led by Jacob Rees-Mogg — have waged war by inciting the 48 letters needed from MPs in order to trigger a “no confidence” vote.
However, May still has a few loyal (though perhaps strategically loyal) supporters. One such supporter is Michael Gove, the Tory environment secretary. Gove is the adopted son of a Scottish fishmonger who lost his business as a result of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
Throughout the unfolding Brexit drama, Gove has been something of a dark horse. The former prime minister David Cameron was surprised when Gove, who had served as education secretary, decided to herald the Vote Leave campaign. Boris Johnson, Gove’s ally at the time, was also surprised when Gove thwarted his leadership bid by withdrawing his support and announcing a bid of his own. (This was widely considered to be Gove’s “Brutus” moment; a grave betrayal.)
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, however, Gove has been a defender of May; tempering his commitment to leaving the EU with pragmatism.
When Dominic Raab, the latest Brexit secretary, resigned last week, it is perhaps unsurprising that May offered Gove the role. He refused. However, now Gove and a handful of other MPs on the brink of resigning are considered to hold Theresa May’s fate in his hand.
Along with Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, and Andrea Leadsom, Gove believes that May might be able to renegotiate – securing a better deal for the country. This seems unduly optimistic. But in any case, Michael Gove — the kingmaker — is one to watch.