Why was Michael Gove sacked? Boris Johnson’s reasons for firing MP - as No 10 calls him a ‘snake’

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As support for his leadership breaks down in Westminster, Boris Johnson has abruptly fired Cabinet rival Michael Gove and refused calls to step down.

On Wednesday (6 July), the Prime Minister met with ministers in No 10.

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He was informed that he had lost the confidence of the Tory party and should resign, but showed no sign of listening.

Following that, a group of Cabinet ministers went to No 10 to similarly inform Johnson that he should resign after losing the confidence of his MPs.

At the time of writing (and this number will almost certainly be outdated as you read this), 54 members of government have resigned in protest at Johnson’s leadership.

So why was Gove fired, instead of resigning?

Here is everything you need to know.

Why was Michael Gove fired?

It was rumoured that Gove informed the Prime Minister it was time for him to quit on Wednesday (6 July) morning. He was a notable absence from PMQs later in the day.

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No 10 sources confirmed Gove had been sacked, with one telling the BBC: “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.”

Michael Gove attends the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street on 5 July (Photo: Ian Vogler - Pool/Getty Images)Michael Gove attends the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street on 5 July (Photo: Ian Vogler - Pool/Getty Images)
Michael Gove attends the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street on 5 July (Photo: Ian Vogler - Pool/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Johnson and Gove have a rocky history together. In 2016, the Prime Minister’s bid for leadership of the Conservative party was derailed when Gove withdrew his support and opted to run on his own.

The drastic move, which saw Gove resign from his position as Johnson’s campaign manager, effectively pushed the future PM to withdraw from the race

Johnson, in Gove’s opinion at the time, was unable to lead “the party and the country in the way that I would have hoped.”

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Recently, Gove joked that his sabotage of Johnson’s attempt to become the leader of the party had been like a "unexploded bomb going off in my hands."

Last October, when he was still in charge of the Prime Minister’s strategy for levelling up, he was speaking from a position of safety, but the joke brought to light the ongoing unease between the two men.

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

Could anyone else be sacked?

It is not just Gove who has tried to convince Johnson that his time at No 10 should come to an end.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, and Welsh Secretary Simon Hart are among the Cabinet ministers who are thought to have told the Prime Minister to stand down.

Patel has reportedly spoken with the Prime Minister to express the parliamentary party’s "overwhelming view,” while Shapps has advised Johnson that he has little chance of winning another vote of confidence and that he should instead lay out a timeline for his own-chosen exit instead.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was only recently named Chancellor on Tuesday (5 July), has also taken part in a ministerial confrontation with Johnson.

However, the PM has ignored advice to look for a "more dignified exit", and has decided to fight for his political future instead.

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On Wednesday, Sir Graham Brady, the head of the Conservative 1922 Committee, spoke with Johnson to outline the amount of backbench resistance.

Monday’s (11 July) election of a new executive for the committee may amend the leadership rules, allowing for another vote of confidence just one month after the last one, which Johnson would be expected to lose given the way MPs have turned against him.

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