Michael Gove has dismissed speculation he intends to quit politics, saying he is “definitely planning to stay in parliament”.
Gove, sacked by Boris Johnson as levelling up and housing secretary after privately advising the prime minister to stand down, laughed off suggestions he could become a newspaper editor.
Of his relationship with the prime minister, he dismissed suggestions he had been sacked in revenge for turning on Johnson in 2016. He said Johnson wanted to “stand and fight and in order to do so he needed to show he was reconstructing his government”.
He said: “I have both a reservoir of affection for Boris and great respect for what he did in office as well.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gove, who is backing the former chancellor Rishi Sunak to be the next prime minister, said the frontrunner Liz Truss had “moved more on to the territory” staked out by Sunak over tackling the cost of living crisis during the course of the Conservative leadership campaign.
He said Truss had acknowledged she needed to flesh out some of her earlier points.
Truss previously said she did not believe “handouts” were the best way to help households through the crisis and that she favoured tax cuts, which Sunak has said would not help poorer families.
But writing in the Sun on Thursday, Truss promised to deliver immediate support, without specifying how she would do this.
“I firmly believe in these grave times, we need to be radical,” she wrote. She added she would “deliver immediate support to ensure people are not facing unaffordable fuel bills. I will be robust in my approach. But, it isn’t right to announce my entire plan before I have even won the leadership and got my feet under the table.”
Gove said Sunak had been clear that the energy crisis facing households had to be addressed in a “radical and compassionate way”.
He told Today there were many who would not benefit from a tax cut, who could not increase their income. “They need to be our first concern. We can use the welfare system, pension tax credits and other means in order to help those. And then, I think, there can be general help for all citizens, like working with energy companies … in order to make sure that the most vulnerable are best protected.”
Of Truss, he said: “I think during the course of this campaign we have seen, most recently in the Sun this morning, Liz acknowledging that some of the earlier points that she made now need to be fleshed out, elaborated, nuanced.
“She has said that we will need to provide additional support beyond simply the tax cuts, of which she was speaking earlier in the campaign. And I think that is a very welcome move. She’s moved more on to the territory that Rishi had staked out. I think that is a sign the Conservative party is coming together.”
At the final hustings in London on Wednesday night, Truss dismissed the prospect of energy rationing, while Sunak said nothing should be ruled out. Gove said rationing could not be ruled out, though not in domestic settings, but efficiencies could be sought elsewhere.
Asked if Sunak would plan a “big bang” moment comparable to the scale of his furlough measures during the pandemic, Gove said: “Big and radical, yes.” Asked if the amount of money could be comparable to that spent on furlough, he said: “The amount spent on furlough was massive because of the scale of that crisis. But we’re certainly talking about really significant sums.”
He added: “It needs to be paid for,” and that meant it was “even more important there aren’t other unfunded tax commitments”.