The Conservatives have been accused of backstabbing and covert plotting ahead of the next round of voting in the party’s leadership contest.
The accusations relate to Michael Gove’s campaign manager Nick Boles, who allegedly sent a text message to Tory MPs who support Theresa May, urging them to tactically back Gove in order to keep Andrea Leadsom off the final ballot.
In the text, Boles said the party ought to be “seriously frightened” by the prospect of Leadsom becoming the next leader and prime minister. Leadsom has grown in popularity despite despite beginning the contest as a clear outsider and not having the experience of holding a senior position in government.
The text read as follows (emphasis ours):
“I respect the fact that you want Theresa May to be the Prime Minister. It is overwhelmingly likely that she will be, and if she does I will sleep easily at night. But I am seriously frightened about the risk of allowing Andrea Leadsom onto the membership ballot.
“What if Theresa stumbles? Are we really confident that the membership won’t vote for a fresh face who shares their attitudes about much of modern life, like they did with IDS (Iain Duncan Smith)?
“Michael doesn’t mind spending two months taking a good thrashing from Theresa if that is what it takes to put the party’s interest and the national interest, surely we must all work together to stop AL?”
Conservative MPs will vote on Thursday evening to determine which two candidates will battle it out to replace the outgoing David Cameron. May comfortably won the first round of voting and is expected to do so again.
However, the race to join May on the ballot is very close. If the Gove campaign can successfully persuade some of the MPs who intended to back May to support him, it will probably put the Justice Secretary on the final ballot at Leadsom’s expense.
Boles, who himself is an MP has since apologised for sending the text, saying it didn’t receive Gove’s authorisation and wasn’t reflective of his views.
Gove was recently confronted about the text message at an election hustings event, according to The Independent. A May supporter said that he responded with “a sort of giggle, and then he sat down. He didn’t disown it, because so many MPs have received it, it is quite difficult to disown it.”
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