James Forsyth

Will more than half a dozen Cabinet Ministers back Brexit?

Will more than half a dozen Cabinet Ministers back Brexit?
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The Cabinet convenes this morning at 10am with, at least, six of those present set to back Out. The most intriguing of these Outers is Michael Gove.

Gove is exceptionally close to Cameron and Osborne both politically and personally. He is one of the intellectual driving forces behind the Tory modernising project. But he is unable to back staying in the EU on these terms.

Cameron claimed in his press conference last night that Gove had been an Outer for 30 years. I’m not sure that’s right. Friends say it was the experience of being a minister and finding out how much of government was just following what Brussels wanted to happen that tipped him over the edge.

Gove won’t be the face of the Out campaign. But he will give it intellectual credibility and persuade both MPs and donors that they can support it without becoming part of the Nigel Farage show. Crucially, Gove will also help inoculate Out against the charge that it is just a group of people who want to take Britain back to some bygone era. As one Tory who know both Gove and Osborne well puts it, ‘George wanted this referendum to be about the future versus the past. His great fear was it becoming about two version of the future and Michael will frame Out as being about Global Britain, about the future.’

The Tory who everyone is now watching won’t be at Cabinet, though. Boris Johnson is only a member of the political Cabinet so he won’t be at this morning’s meeting. Number 10 appear to have genuinely no idea what he’ll do. Indeed such is the Cameron’s circle frustration with Boris that even if he backs staying in the EU, I suspect it will take some time to repair relations between the two biggest beasts in the Tory jungle.

But if Boris does back Out, it will—as I say in The Sun today—be catastrophic for Cameron. For with Boris on one side and the Prime Minister on the other, then there won’t be the Tory swing to IN that Cameron needs for a decisive victory. But the word in Westminster is that we will have to wait until Sunday evening to find out which way Boris will jump.