Michael Gove has defended his decision to stand for the Tory leadership in a move which critics have said is a "betrayal" of his friend and colleague Boris Johnson.
Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Gove said giving Mr Johnson his continued support to become the next prime minister would have been a "betrayal" of the country, after the former London mayor "ducked" certain decisions.
"I've taken some difficult decisions but I've always taken those because I've put my country and my principles first," he added.
Mr Gove insisted that there were a number of people who were asking him then to put his name forward but he "deliberately did not do that because I wanted to put the national interest before my personal interest".
Mr Gove also reiterated his stance that he came to the decision to stand reluctantly after "throwing my heart and soul for four or five days into trying to get Boris to become the leader of the Conservative Party", and concluding that "he could not do that job".
Decisions that "were ducked" by Johnson
"Right until the eleventh hour I was talking to parliamentary colleagues and friends seeking to convince them that Boris could lead this country and could be prime minister."
But Mr Gove said in the final 24 hours before the deadline for candidate submissions for the Tory leadership "there were actions that were taken, decisions that were ducked" that led him to come to the conclusion that Mr Johnson was not.
Continued Johnson support would have been "genuine betrayal"
Mr Gove said that he knew he would attacked personally for making the decision "but I love my country".
"I could not recommend that Boris was prime minister, I had tried to make that work and, therefore, it would have been a genuine betrayal of principal and of this country to have allowed Boris's candidacy to go ahead with my support," he added.
Gove sets out his stall for PM
Earlier, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gove laid out his stall for the top job, and hinted at his vision for a new relationship between Britain and the EU in the wake of the Brexit vote, saying that "free movement must end" and that Britain must remove itself from "the rogue European Court of Justice".
Mr Gove pointed to his experience in the ministry of education and in the ministry of justice, saying that "the new Prime Minister should have experience at the top level of government and a track record of delivering change".
But Mr Gove faces stiff competition from, among others, Andrea Leadsom who is emerging as the leading pro-Brexit candidate for the Tory leadership.