Britain's post-Brexit leadership drama has reached Game of Thrones, Shakespearean heights

Leave it to Boris Johnson to do the unthinkable and make British politics even crazier and more dramatic than America's 2016 presidential race. Johnson, a Conservative former London mayor, was the frontrunner to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation after losing the Brexit vote — thanks in no small part to Johnson, a former ally turned leading Brexit proponent. On Thursday morning, a few hours before Johnson was to announce his candidacy, close pro-Brexit ally Michael Gove jumped into the race, saying "Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead." Johnson dropped out of the race, quoting Julius Caesar, Shakespeare's masterwork on betrayal.

Johnson's father, Stanley Johnson, was reading from the same script. "'Et tu, Brute' is my comment on that," he told BBC News when asked about Gove, who, like Johnson, has been close with Cameron since their days at Oxford. Gove had been tapped as Johnson's campaign manager. The Washington Post compared the Tory leadership grudge match to "a binge-watching session of House of Cards," and Tory MP Nigel Evans told the BBC "it makes the House of Cards look like Teletubbies." At The New York Times, the Tory turmoil "seems derived from Game of Thrones, itself drawn from centuries of English history." The newspaper Metro agreed about the Westeros connection:

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Other British newspaper front pages, as rounded up by the BBC, say Johnson was "Brexecuted" in the "Tory bloodbath" (The Sun), called his derailing "the most spectacular political assassination in a generation" (The Daily Telegraph) and the "Westminster revolution" (The Times), and declared, "Et Tu, Gove?" (i). On the other hand, the Daily Mirror declared of Johnson's downfall: "Justice! The shaming of Boris, the man who betrayed Britain." Gove, the 48-year-old justice secretary who frequently said he was unsuited and unqualified to be prime minister, is expected to lose out to Home Secretary Theresa May, 59, though who knows what bloody betrayals lie ahead. (George R.R. Martin, perhaps?)

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.