U.K. Justice Secretary and Brexit campaigner Michael Gove announced Thursday his decision to run for the position of Conservative Party leader and prime minister following the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union.
Gove, who has repeatedly denied he wants to be the prime minister, was expected to stand behind former London mayor Boris Johnson’s bid for the leadership as current Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation following the referendum results.
“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,” Gove said, adding, “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,” Gove said in a statement published by the Press Association.
Gove said last week’s Brexit result was a vote for “change.” The British public “rejected politics as usual and government as usual” and wanted “a new approach to running this country,” he said.
Johnson was expected to enter the race with a speech later in the day, as nominations for the Conservative Party leadership contest close at midday. However, in a surprise move, he announced his decision to back out of the race.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who campaigned to stay in the EU, announced her intention to run for leader in Thursday’s Times newspaper. May said she was capable of “uniting Britain” and healing the divisions exposed by the EU referendum result.
Energy minister and Brexit campaigner Andrea Leadsom also confirmed she was standing for the leadership in a tweet sent within minutes of Gove’s announcement.
Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox also announced their candidacies Wednesday.
The winner will be announced on Sept. 9.