In Shakespeare’s Richard III, the as yet uncrowned king manipulates his followers to put his name to the people as the legitimate candidate for the throne.
“Alas, why would you heap this care on me?
I am unfit for state and majesty.
I do beseech you, take it not amiss;
I cannot, nor I will not, yield to you…
Will you enforce me to a world of cares?
Call them again. I am not made of stones,
But penetrable to your kind entreaties,
Albeit against my conscience and my soul.
Cousin of Buckingham and sage, grave men,
Since you will buckle fortune on my back,
To bear her burden, whe’er I will or no,
I must have patience to endure the load;
But if black scandal or foul-faced reproach
Attend the sequel of your imposition,
Your mere enforcement shall acquittance me
From all the impure blots and stains thereof,
For God doth know, and you may partly see,
How far I am from the desire of this.”
Fast forward 533 years and a reluctant Michael Gove – like Richard, “persuaded” by parliamentary colleagues – has just stabbed Boris (pretender to the conservative throne) in the back:
“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.
“So I tried as hard as I could but last night, reflecting on this, I came to the conclusion that ultimately Boris could not build that team, could not provide that leadership and that unity.
“It had to fall to someone else. As someone who had argued consistently that we should leave the European Union, and as someone who has experience at the highest levels in the Cabinet, I felt it had to fall to me.
“I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership. 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.”