He has pronounced himself incapable of running the country and even offered to sign his lack of ambition for Downing Street in blood, but Michael Gove has found new faith in his own abilities.
The justice secretary has surpassed pretty much every politician in history in the clarity and frequency of his protestations, renewing his insistence he could not be prime minister only recently in a EU referendum debate.
Now — in a bombshell move that will do nothing to dispel his reputation for hiding brutally-ruthless ambition behind a beaming collegiate smile — the best man has abandoned the groom even as he walked up the aisle.
He was nowhere to be seen as his eleventh-hour ditching of a “dream ticket” deal turned Boris Johnson’s long-cherished wedding to the country into a humiliating public wake for a political career.
But he is unlikely to be quiet for long as he finalises his own pitch for the top job he said he did not want.
It was in praising the prime minister’s abilities that he made a declaration in 2012 to which he will now be trying to formulate a typically thoughtful-sounding explanation.
“I don’t want to be prime minister,” he told Sky News at the time. “Having seen close up how he does the job, I know that I couldn’t do it.”
“I don’t know what I can do in a way but if anyone wants me to sign a piece of parchment in my own blood saying I don’t want to be prime minister, then I’m perfectly happy to do that.”
As one Westminster observer noted wryly: “Yes but he didn’t, did he?”
He is married to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, who is considered a powerful influence behind the scenes.
An email that found its way into the public domain showed her demanding he and his team play hardball with Mr Johnson before making any promises of support in the leadership contest.
“Do not concede any ground. Be your stubborn best. GOOD LUCK,” she wrote.
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