The Conservative chief whip has defended David Cameron after he told the BBC he would not serve a third term as prime minister if the Conservatives were re-elected into government.
Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight, Michael Gove said Mr Cameron’s comments showed he was a “sane, decent guy”.
Labour accused the PM of arrogance and the Lib Dems called him presumptuous.
Mr Cameron tipped Theresa May, George Osborne and Boris Johnson as possible successors in his BBC interview.
Mr Gove told Newsnight he “wasn’t surprised” by the declaration, which he described as a “statement of the bleeding obvious”.
He said: “One of the reasons that it will help us win is that it reinforces in everyone’s mind the fact that we have, as our prime minister, a normal, sane, decent guy who is in politics for the right reasons, who when he is asked a direct question gives an honest answer and when he seeks public office does it because he wants to finish a job to make sure our economic recovery is sustained.
“He’s not in it for glory, ego or wealth.
“He’s in it because he believes that he has another five years to give and he has seen other leaders – including Tony Blair sadly – cling into office too long and therefore spoil the early promise that came with them into office.”
Mr Cameron’s comments were made to the BBC’s deputy political editor James Landale as part of a series of BBC interviews with the leaders of the main political parties.
The remarks prompted criticism from his opponents, with Labour accusing him of “taking the British public for granted” by discussing a third term before the general election in May.
The Lib Dems said Mr Cameron was being “incredibly presumptuous”, while UKIP said the announcement would create a “long-awaited civil war in the Conservative Party over Europe”.
But Mr Gove said the prime minister had learned from the experience of his predecessors who had stayed too long in office.
“There have been predecessors, Margaret Thatcher, others, whom you’ve had to prise out of Downing Street, their fingernails have been there in the door jamb,” he said.
“One of the things about David, one of the reasons he’s popular, respected and liked as prime minister is people know he’s not interested in the office for what it can give him, he’s interested because of public service.”
Timeline ‘not surprising’
Mr Gove also dismissed suggestions the announcement would spark a leadership contest between those tipped by Mr Cameron as a potential successor.
He said MPs know “one of the best ways you can establish your credentials for the top job is by continuing to be a loyal and effective member of the team”.
Speaking to The World Tonight, the Conservative backbencher Sir Richard Ottaway said the prime minister “probably felt it was the right time to get it out”.
He said Mr Cameron had made “comments like this way back in the distant past” and the timeline was not surprising.
“The comparison with Margaret Thatcher is quite interesting because it wasn’t a happy end and in a way, perhaps defining your terms is the better way to deal with this in modern politics.”