Thursday 30 June 2016 9:09 am

Michael Gove ditches Boris Johnson and enters the race to succeed David Cameron

Michael Gove has this morning announced he will stand in the Conservative leadership race to succeed David Cameron as prime minister.

Gove, who headed up the Vote Leave campaign, was widely expected to throw his support behind Boris Johnson in a joint bid, but has now sought to distance himself from his colleague.

In a statement this morning, Gove goes on the offensive, directly attacking the former mayor of London and questioning his ability to "provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead".

The justice secretary, who headed up the department for education during the coalition government, has previously said he does not want the top job, but rowed back from those statements today, arguing "events since Thursday have weighed heavily with me".

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Theresa May also announced her leadership bid this morning, outlining a series of policy positions and pledging not to trigger Article 50 until next year. Brexit-backer and former City minister Andrea Leadsom also stated this morning she will be standing in the contest.

Gove's announcement comes one day after a leaked email from his wife, Sarah Vine, revealed apprehensions from the Gove camp over how likely Johnson would be to win the backing of Conservative-supporting papers, The Sun and the Daily Mail.

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary who was considering running in the race herself, declared this morning she was backing Michael Gove's bid. In a statement this morning, Morgan said: "The next leader must have the skill and credibility to put together our exit from and future relationship with Europe and explain the final terms to the British people.

"I have concluded unequivocally that the right person to do that is Michael Gove and I am delighted to be endorsing his candidacy."

Those hoping to stand in the Conservative leadership race have to get their nomination into the backbench 1922 Committee today. MPs will then whittle the field down to two candidates and the 150,000-odd party members will vote on who they would like to take over. The process is expected to be wrapped up by 9 September with the final two contenders having been announced by mid-July.

Michael Gove's full statement

"The British people voted for change last Thursday. They sent us a clear instruction that they want Britain to leave the European Union and end the supremacy of EU law. They told us to restore democratic control of immigration policy and to spend their money on national priorities such as health, education and science instead of giving it to Brussels. They rejected politics as usual and government as usual. They want and need a new approach to running this country.

"There are huge challenges ahead for this country but also huge opportunities. We can make this country stronger and fairer. We have a unique chance to heal divisions, give everyone a stake in the future and set an example as the most creative, innovative and progressive country in the world.

"If we are to make the most of the opportunities ahead we need a bold break with the past.

"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.

"I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership. I want there to be an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take. Whatever the verdict of that debate I will respect it. In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change."