Norfolk MP says he was lobbied to stop “divisive” Boris

Boris Johnson leaves his home in north London, as Theresa May overtook him in the race to become the

Boris Johnson leaves his home in north London, as Theresa May overtook him in the race to become the next prime minister Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has gone from being a much-loved politician to a divisive figure, a Norfolk MP has said as he threw his support behind Michael Gove to be the next prime minister.

Sir Henry Bellingham, the MP for North-West Norfolk, said he had been getting calls and emails from people who wanted to stop the former London mayor from becoming prime minister, and believed other MPs had also been lobbied by constituents.

The veteran Conservative, who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, said Mr Johnson's Daily Telegraph column on Monday had been 'flaky and shallow' and had prompted people to think 'hang on, this guy hasn't really thought it through.'

Sir Henry said he had urged Mr Gove to stand last weekend, and had spoken to him this morning to assure him of his support.

The former minister said he had had a 'fair number' of calls from people saying they did not want Boris to be prime minister because they thought he was 'too flaky and was not doing it as a matter of principle'.

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'Michael Gove has been consistent about Europe and clear about what he wants. There hasn't been a lack of consistency.'

Boris Johnson was described by Sir Henry as a good Mayor of London, but he added: 'Over the last few months he as gone from much-loved to divisive. '

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'It became apparent to a lot of the MPs on his team that he was not the strongest man on the Brexit side.'

He said the Mr Gove did have a bit of ground to make up, but he had an excellent chance to go to the party as one of the final two MPs, and had an excellent chance of winning the job.

Sir Henry said there were going to have to be compromises in the negotiations, and that Michael Gove was 'credible and respected' in Europe, adding that Mr Johnson would have been a 'red rag to a bull' when he met European ministers.

Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss threw her support behind Mr Johnson yesterday, but was not at his launch today and has not commented on who she will support next.

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