Michael Gove is starting to feel the fallout of his alleged treachery against Boris Johnson as one of the UK's largest and most influential newspapers backs Remain campaigner Theresa May, the Justice Secretary's main rival in the Conservative leadership contest.

"Mrs May has the right qualities, the stature and experience to unite both her party and the country — and possibly usher in a new, cleaner, more honest kind of politics," the Daily Mail declared.

"She is a serious-minded woman, with an ethic of public service and an enormous capacity for hard work and attention to detail."

The endorsement is also a blow to Sarah Vine, Gove's journalist wife, who apparently claimed in a leaked email that the newspaper's Brexit-backing editor, Paul Dacre, would support her husband.

But it seems that Gove's surprise decision to jettison the Johnson campaign and make his own bid for Number 10, alongside Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, may have swayed the Daily Mail. "With the best will in the world, we cannot see Mr Gove as a prime minister for these turbulent times.

"Indeed, a great irony of his surprise decision to throw his hat into the leadership ring yesterday is that in the very act of doing so, he raised question marks over the qualities so many have come to admire in him: consistency, strict adherence to principle and, yes, trustworthiness.

"This is a man, after all, who declared repeatedly and categorically that he had no ambition to take the top job – even offering on one occasion to sign a statement to that effect, on parchment in his own blood."

The comments come as Gove officially launches his leadership bid for prime minister and Tory leader. He is expected to make a speech on Friday morning (1 July 2016) outlining his "positive vision" for Britain. Gove and May are up against Vote Leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom, a former city minister, Dr Liam Fox, a former defence secretary and Eurosceptic and Stephen Crabb, the work and pensions secretary.

Conservative MPs will whittle down the candidates to two hopefuls, who will then go head-to-head in a vote of the 150,000 strong Tory Party members. David Cameron's successor as prime minister is to be announced on 9 September.

Timetable of Conservative Party leadership election

  • Wednesday 29 June: Nominations open
  • Thursday 30 June: Nominations close at noon
  • Friday 9 September: New leader announced