ichael Gove has admitted he made a “misjudgement” when he ran against Boris Johnson for the Tory party leadership in 2016 and urged rebels to get behind the Prime Minister as he tries to reboot his premiership.
Mr Johnson is due to make a speech in Blackpool later on Thursday pledging new housing market reforms which will extend the buy to let scheme to people who rent their property from housing associations.
It is part of a new policy drive aimed to boost support for Mr Johnson after 148 Conservative MPs - 41 per cent of his parliamentary party - voted against him in Monday’s confidence vote, allowing him to continue as PM but leaving his authority damaged.
Asked on Sky News on Thursday morning whether he would ever run against Mr Johnson as a potential leader, Mr Gove said: “Oh God no”.
Reminded of his 2016 decision to run for the Tory leadership which torpedoed Mr Johnson’s own campaign, the Levelling Up and Housing Secretary added: “I made a mistake in 2016 - a misjudgement. If you have been in politics for a little while as I have been there are always mistakes that you can look back on but no I think the Prime Minister is doing a good job.
“I have been privileged to work alongside him.”
“I can understand why some of my MP colleagues have concerns and it’s important that ovr the course of the next two years that we demonstrate the government is focused on delivering for everyone across the United Kingdom.
“One of the things we need to do is move away from a concentration on some of the Westminster preoccupations towards the people’s priorities.
“And In that sense what the Prime Minister is saying today in Blackpool about extending home ownership and about helping more people on to the property ladder, that is exactly I know a concern a lot of my colleagues have.
“And I hope however they voted on Monday when they look at what the Prime Minister is saying and what this Government is doing that they will feel reassured that we are on track to deliver what we were elected to deliver in 2019.”
Mr Gove also rejected suggestions that the announcement had been rushed out to help Mr Johnson move on from this week’s confidence vote.
He added: “It’s part of a package of housing policy on which we have been working for months now...this has been in the pipeline for some time now. “
As well as extending the right to buy scheme - a flagship policy of Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s government and totemic for many Conservatives today - Mr Johnson is also set to announce changes to the way people can access mortgages.
This could include introducing changes so that people claiming benefits can take out mortgages and new saving schemes to help those on lower incomes save for deposits.
But experts have raised questions over whether lenders will be prepared to take the risk of lending to people claiming benefits and whether the move will only increase demand for housing stock without dealing with shortages of supply.
The Treasury’s former permanent secretary Nick Macpherson tweeted: “One day many years hence HMG [government] will accept that the way to make housing affordable is to ensure supply outstrips demand: that would be leadership.
“Until then, expect numerous initiatives to pump up demand to support those who own property at the expense of those who don’t.#politics.”
Mr Gove said there will be a “cap” on the number of people who can take advantage of the Government’s new housing scheme, but when asked what the limit would be, he said: “That’s something I will be discussing with housing associations.”
“We’re looking specifically at a savings vehicle that people can use in order to save for that deposit.
“Because home ownership is not just good for individuals, it’s good for society overall.
“We want people to have a stake in the future, we want people to be able to invest in their own home, we want people to have somewhere safe and secure, warm and decent, in which they can raise their children.”
When asked where the money for the scheme will come from, he said: “It will come from the overall parcel, the overall envelope, of Government spending.”