London, June 30: Justice Secretary Michael Gove is to run to be the next Conservative Party leader and UK prime minister.
Mr Gove, a prominent figure in the Brexit campaign, had been expected to support Boris Johnson’s candidacy.
He said he was standing because he had come “to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead”.
“In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change.”
Nominations for the Conservative Party leadership contest close at midday, with the winner to be announced on 9 September.
Home Secretary Theresa May – who campaigned to stay in the EU – announced her intention to run for leader in Thursday’s Times newspaper.
Mrs May – who is due to launch her campaign later – said she was capable of “uniting Britain” and healing the divisions exposed by the EU referendum result.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, the former mayor of London, is widely expected to enter the race with a speech later, setting out his vision for the UK’s future outside the EU.
He is expected to place Brexit at the heart of his “optimistic vision” for the country, saying the greater self-determination that leaving the EU will bring is an opportunity to “believe in ourselves and the values of our country”.
Energy minister and Brexit campaigner Andrea Leadsom has also thrown her hat in to the ring, joining former Defence Secretary Liam Fox and Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb among the runners and riders.
‘Unity and change’
Mr Gove’s announcement that he will challenge the leadership was unexpected, as the justice secretary had been expected to throw his weight behind fellow leading Leave campaigner Mr Johnson for Conservative leader.
Explaining his decision, he said: “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.”
Setting out his pitch for the leadership, the cabinet minister – who was formerly the education secretary – said: “I want there to be an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take.
“Whatever the verdict of that debate I will respect it. In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change.”
Mr Gove said last week’s Brexit result was a vote for “change”. The British public “rejected politics as usual and government as usual” and wanted “a new approach to running this country”, he said.
Mr Gove said the UK faced “huge challenges” but also “huge opportunities”, and added: “If we are to make the most of the opportunities ahead we need a bold break with the past.”