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Gove critical of peace process in Northern Ireland

By Steven Alexander

Published 04/07/2016

Contenders for the post of Prime Minister, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, on the Andrew Marr show
Contenders for the post of Prime Minister, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, on the Andrew Marr show

Michael Gove - the Conservative leadership candidate who withdrew his support for fellow Brexit campaigner Boris Johnston - has criticised Northern Ireland's peace process.

In an uncompromising interview, he was told by Andrew Marr he was viewed as the "Frank Underwood" - the Machiavellian character from the US version of House of Cards - of British politics and had "betrayed" his friends.

But Mr Gove said putting friendship first in politics did not serve the country.

Pressed on his past comments describing the Northern Ireland peace process as a "moral stain" and a "capitulation to violence", he insisted the negotiations "could have been handled in a different way".

"There was a problem with the Northern Ireland peace process," he added.

The leading Leave campaigner also insisted the decision to quit the European Union would not lead to the break-up of the UK.

"I don't believe that we will need to go down that path," he said. "There is no appetite for a second referendum."

Last night, Mr Gove became the first of the Conservative leadership candidates to publish his tax returns during the campaign.

The Justice Secretary paid nearly £70,000 tax in the two years up to April 2015, the documents reveal.

Mr Gove's income in 2013/14 when he was Education Secretary was £117,786. The following year his earnings dropped to £96,071 when he became chief whip in Prime Minister David Cameron's reshuffle.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May has demanded a "proper contest" for the Conservative leadership, as polling suggests she is racing towards victory. The frontrunner to replace David Cameron said she was not taking "anything for granted", adding there is a need for the arguments to be heard by Tory members.

Bitter recriminations over rival Mr Gove's decision to pull the rug from under Boris Johnson's leadership bid appear to have dented his prospects of taking on Mrs May in the final vote.

Mr Gove faces being pushed into third place in the bid to replace Mr Cameron by fellow Brexit campaigner Andrea Leadsom, whose support is growing.

Meanwhile, speaking on ITV's Peston on Sunday show, Mrs May dismissed the prospect of an early general election for the new prime minister as "another destabilising factor" for the economy.

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