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Boris Johnson and Michael Gove: A rocky relationship that ended with a sacking

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson arrive in Downing Street (PA)
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson arrive in Downing Street (PA)

Not long ago, Michael Gove quipped that his 2016 sabotage of Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership bid had been like an “unexploded bomb going off in my hands”.

He was speaking from a position of safety last October, while still in charge of the Prime Minister’s levelling up agenda, but the joke highlighted the enduring uneasiness of the pair’s relationship.

“One of the things about committing political suicide is that you always live to regret it,” he added.

The drastic move, which saw Mr Gove quit as Mr Johnson’s campaign manager, put himself on a collision course with his former friend and effectively forced him to pull out.

His view at the time was that Mr Johnson was incapable of “leading the party and the country in the way that I would have hoped”.

Many of the 43 resignation letters handed in since Tuesday evening echoed those sentiments, but it was only Mr Gove who had left his Government post involuntarily by the end of Wednesday.

The pair were still basking in the glow of the victory of the Vote Leave referendum campaign, on which they worked shoulder to shoulder, when Mr Gove sent shockwaves through Westminster dealing the unexpected blow.

However, after three years and a rehabilitative stint as environment secretary under Theresa May, he was welcomed into the fold of his former rival’s first cabinet.

He was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, before retaining a frontline role in the September 2021 reshuffle and being made Communities Secretary.

Mr Gove, who was thought to have told the Prime Minister on Wednesday morning that his time was up, was a notable absence from PMQs later in the day.

No 10 sources confirmed Mr Gove had been sacked in the evening, with the BBC reporting one had said: “You cannot have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully briefs the press that he has called for the leader to go.

“You cannot operate like that.”