Liberal Democrats are rushing to select a candidate for the seat of Conservative MP Michael Gove in Surrey amid rumors that the leading figure is considering resigning from parliament.
Sir Ed Davey’s party has set a deadline for this week’s selection in Surrey Heath’s southeast constituency of the “blue wall” in preparation for the former minister’s possible departure.
A LibDem source said so The independent that several local party officials had heard that Gove might be ready to step down if his rival Liz Truss becomes leader and his favorite candidate Rishi Sunak loses him.
But a Tory source denied that Gove was mulling a move away from the Commons, accusing the opposition party of a ploy of “dirty tricks” to garner support in the blue wall.
Lib Dems of Surrey Heath sent an email to members explaining that the nominations for the local selection process will conclude Wednesday night, amid news that Gove is considering a return to journalism.
“We always work hard to support seats where there may be by-elections,” said a Lib Dem source who said the party was on “high alert” in the area.
“Given the current rumors of Michael Gove leaving his constituency to return to journalism, it would be natural to make sure Surrey Heath is ready for an election,” they added.
The source said the party was also speeding up its selection process in several other target areas in the south held by Conservative MPs – including Nadine Dorries’ seat in Mid Bedfordshire – where there is a possibility of by-elections.
Boris Johnson was said to be considering a noble title for the secretary of culture – reportedly ready to leave politics at the forefront to write novels – as part of his resignation honors list.
Gove, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with the force of his recent attack on Truss’s business plans, arguing that his priority at tax cuts amounted to a “vacation from reality.”
The former cabinet minister – who quarreled with Boris Johnson in July when urging him to resign in the last few days before his resignation – wrote in Times who “does not expect” to be back in government.
But a Tory source insisted that Gove, who was spotted in Ibiza over the summer break, would continue backbencher once the leadership contest was over. “Unfortunately this is yet another example of dirty Lib Dem tricks,” they said.
“They are more interested in doing politics than providing the voters. Michael remains absolutely committed to his Surrey Heath voters and has no intention of resigning. “
Gove holds a large majority of over 18,000 in Surrey Heath, which has been held by the Tories since its creation in 2001.
But the Lib Dems may point to huge swings in their favor when they defeated the Tories in the recent “blue wall” by-election in Chesham and Amersham, North Shropshire and Tiverton and Honiton.
A party source also pointed to the recent success of local elections in Woking, near Gove headquarters in Surrey Heath, and said local issues such as the condition of Frimley Park hospital, one of several dozen that has structural problems with the concrete roof.
“Unlike conservatives, we never overlook what people say locally,” they said. “We take nothing for granted and we know that winning a place like this would be very hard work.”