Boris Johnson tells allies he’s ‘up for’ leadership race as he rushes back to UK

Former PM who quit after a series of scandals vows he is ‘up for it’

Jane Dalton
Friday 21 October 2022 21:13 BST
Boris Johnson's sister backs Keir Starmer to be prime minister

Boris Johnson has told allies he is “up for” the Tory leadership race and is rushing back to the UK to throw his hat in the ring.

Trade minister Sir James Duddridge, a friend and backer of the ex-prime minister, said Mr Johnson would land back in Britain on Saturday from his Caribbean holiday and would enter the contest to replace Liz Truss.

He said: ”I’ve been in contact with the boss via WhatsApp. He’s going to fly back. He said, ‘I’m flying back, Dudders. We are going to do this. I’m up for it’.”

Sir James said Mr Johnson, who was ousted by his own cabinet following a series of scandals, had “learnt and reflected” during his two months out of office, and knew he needed a No 10 operation that was “slicker”.

He also tweeted: “Labour fear an election against Boris Johnson. All the more reason to #BringBackBoris!”

Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed Mr Johnson is the Conservatives’ only realistic chance of uniting the party and stabilising the economy after the market turmoil sparked by Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget.

The business secretary said Mr Johnson was the only candidate able to convincingly repel pressure for a general election because he had led the party to its landslide win in 2019.

"Boris Johnson provides the best chance of a road to recovery for the Conservative Party, he told The Telegraph. "The Tory party has to unite. We have been too divided.”

He predicted the Conservatives’ poll ratings would recover under Mr Johnson, saying: “It‘s striking that when Boris Johnson took over in 2019, we had been 30 per cent behind in the polls.

“Shortly after he leaves, we’re back to being 30 per cent behind in the polls.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said Conservative Party members should decide who is the next leader, rather than a “stitch-up” between MPs.

“Boris Johnson clearly has a mandate now constitutionally,” he added.

Many MPs say only a candidate who has won a general election could legitimately be the new prime minister.

But Mr Johnson is highly divisive. Former leader William Hague warned Mr Johnson’s resurrection would lead to a “death spiral” for the party.

Lord Hague, a Tory peer, said Mr Johnson returning was “possibly the worst idea I’ve heard of” during his 46-year party membership.

And veteran Sir Roger Gale said he would resign from the Conservative whip and stand as an independent if the ex-PM was given a second chance.

Former minister Johnny Mercer, who is backing Rishi Sunak, said he could not put himself or his constituents through another Johnson administration after the “terrible” lows of the last time.

“Boris is a friend of mine, I love him to bits, he’s a great guy, but I just don’t think I can put myself through that again. I don’t think I can ask my constituents to, I don’t think I can ask my staff,” Mr Mercer told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

A return for Mr Johnson would be beset with challenges, not least the inquiry into whether he lied to the Commons over the Partygate scandal, for which he was fined by police.

If found guilty by the Commons Privileges Committee, he could face recall proceedings that would leave him battling for his seat in the Commons if he receives a suspension of 10 days or more.

His popularity with the public has crashed, even if he still rides high with the Tory membership.

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