Boris Johnson is persuaded he is the victim of a beautifully and ruthlessly exercised coup by Michael Gove and his longstanding adviser, Dominic Cummings, I understand.
Here is what his people tell me:
- Johnson's Telegraph article on Monday, which outraged some Leave supporters because it appeared to row back on controlling EU immigration, was edited and approved by Gove.
- Johnson neither offered George Osborne the post of foreign secretary nor leaked that he had done this. His people say Gove had those talks with Osborne.
- On Saturday night, Gove asked for and was offered the post of chancellor in a Johnson government, with the added responsibility of negotiating the terms of Brexit.
- Gove insisted on bringing his controversial adviser Dominic Cummings into the team. Johnson refused. Even so, Gove brought Cummings to a meeting with Johnson and Sir Lynton Crosby on Monday.
- Gove wanted Johnson to replace his media advisor Will Walden with Paul Stephenson. Johnson refused.
- Gove persuaded Johnson not to offer any future cabinet posts to high profile supporters, so as not to reduce his flexibility in government. So Johnson should not be blamed if some potential big-hitting backers, like Andrea Leadsom, could not be won over.
- Gove told the media he was quitting the Johnson camp and running to be leader without personally telling Johnson.
- Yesterday, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp owns the Sun and Times newspapers, told the Times's business summit that he had doubts about Johnson and wished Gove was a candidate.
Ain't politics a lovely business.