British Justice Secretary Michael Gove made a surprise announcement on Thursday that he would stand for the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party and to be the next prime minister.

Gove had been widely expected to support former London mayor Boris Johnson for the job.

"I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future," Gove wrote in a column announcing his leadership bid on the Spectator magazine's website.