Nicky Morgan rules herself out of Tory leadership and backs Gove as next PM
Education secretary Nicky Morgan today ruled herself out of the race for the leadership of the Conservative party and gave her backing to Michael Gove's bid for the premiership.
Her announcement comes after it had been widely reported earlier this week that she was seriously considering running.
In a statement on her website this morning, Ms Morgan wrote:
"Over the past week it has become clear just how divided our nation is – between young and old, north and south, and those with different education and work backgrounds.
"So it is clear to me that the next leader of the Conservative Party must be someone who can unite the country, who can heal the wounds that the referendum exposed but also, and I think this is what we must not lose sight of, present a confident, positive and optimistic platform for our country's future in which this party appeals to the centre ground of British politics.
"It is equally important that we now secure the right deal for Britain – and the next leader must have the skill and credibility to put together the right team to renegotiate our exit from, and future relationship with, Europe and explain the final terms to the British people.
"Having spent the past week talking to colleagues in Parliament, party members and constituents, I have concluded unequivocally that the right person to do that is Michael Gove and I am delighted to be endorsing his candidacy today."
Michael Gove, education secretary from 2010-14, made the surprise announcement that he would be running for the top job this morning, explaining in a statement: "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."
Mr Gove's leadership bid is also being backed by schools minister Nick Gibb and skills minister Nick Boles.