Johnson ‘could secure enough Tory backers’ to enter leadership race – and he ‘is interested’

UK

A cabinet minister has told Sky News they believe Boris Johnson could secure the 100 nominations he needs from Conservative MPs to progress in the Tory leadership race if he were to stand.

And Jacob Rees-Mogg has become the first cabinet minister to publicly declare his backing for the former PM this morning, posting on social media: “I’m backing Boris #BorisorBust.”

The second leadership contest in three months got under way yesterday after the extraordinary resignation of Liz Truss, who was forced from office 44 days into her tenure after a seismic few weeks in Westminster in which her tax-slashing mini-budget crashed and burned.

Three names emerge in Tory leadership contest – Politics latest

All eyes are now on who could replace her – with speculation mounting that Mr Johnson could launch a comeback to frontline politics, six weeks after he was officially ousted from the top job.

It is believed Mr Johnson is on holiday in the Dominican Republic, but reports suggest his return to the UK is imminent.

Will Walden, former press secretary to Mr Johnson, told Sky News: “I’ve spoken to someone that’s spoken to him and he’s on the way back. And clearly he’s taking soundings.”

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Mr Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson would not say if the former prime minister was making a political comeback.

When asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain if Mr Johnson was returning from his trip abroad early, his father said: “I can’t tell you”.

Party rules for the leadership contest mean hopefuls need the backing of at least 100 Tory MPs by Monday afternoon to stay in the race.

This means the maximum number of people able to stand is three. If three candidates get 100 backers, there will be a vote by MPs, with the winning two put forward to the party membership.

If members vote on the top two contenders, the new leader will be chosen by Friday 28 October.

Should Tory MPs coalesce around one candidate, however, the contest will be over on Monday.

Asked about Mr Johnson’s chances at a second run for office, one cabinet minister told Beth Rigby, Sky News’ political editor: “I’d expect him to get to 100.

“Even people who resigned from his government were on the terrace yesterday telling colleagues they would now back him and members definitely will.”

A friend of Mr Johnson has also told Sky News that it is “likely” he will stand.

The expected timeline of events in electing a new PM

‘Bring back Boris’

On Thursday night, momentum appeared to be swinging behind Mr Johnson amid reports he would throw his hat into the ring.

Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary and a staunch Johnson ally, told Sky News she is confident he will meet the threshold of 100 MPs.

“He is a known winner and that is certainly who I’m putting my name against because I want us to win the general election. Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive,” Ms Dorries said.

Fellow Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope told Sky News he’s “excited” by the possibility of Mr Johnson returning to Number 10.

“The news that Boris Johnson might be riding to the rescue of the country and the Conservative Party is really a great tonic,” he said.

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Boris Johnson is a winner

Although multiple Tory MPs have expressed their support for a Johnson comeback, he remains a divisive figure.

Crispin Blunt, who had called for Ms Truss to resign, said Mr Johnson is “not the character” to lead the Conservative Party at this time – but said he could return in the future.

Mr Blunt, who is standing down at the next election, said that while Mr Johnson is talented, he has “one or two” weaknesses that make him unsuitable for the current circumstances.

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Boris ‘not the character’ to lead

Tory MPs threaten to leave party if Johnson returns

Senior backbencher Sir Roger Gale tweeted to remind people that the former prime minister, who resigned in a mire of sleaze, was still under investigation by the Privileges Committee for potentially misleading the House over partygate.

If found guilty, Mr Johnson 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.

Sir Roger told Times Radio that, if Mr Johnson is voted back in as prime minister, he would give up the Conservative Party whip and stand as an independent.

Read more:
Resignations, reversals and rebellion – the 44 days of Liz Truss’s premiership
The divided Tories won’t find it easy choosing a new PM

The final straw for Mr Johnson’s premiership was questions about his judgment over Chris Pincher, the Tory whip who was the centre of drunken groping allegations.

That came on top of his attempts to change the rules to prevent the suspension of the Conservative MP Owen Paterson after he broke lobbying rules.

Mr Johnson was forced to announce his resignation on 7 July, just over 100 days ago, as cabinet allies turned on him with a series of resignations.

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Who could replace Liz Truss as PM?

Who are the other runners and riders?

Rishi Sunak, runner-up to Ms Truss in the previous Conservative leadership campaign, and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt are considered the frontrunners for the keys to Number 10 alongside Mr Johnson – if they choose to stand.

Mr Sunak, the former chancellor and Tory leadership finalist, has signalled he is “very, very up for the job”, according to Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates.

Former cabinet ministers Dominic Raab and Robert Jenrick are among those who have already pledged their support to Mr Sunak.

While Ms Mordaunt has also made it “clear in her public appearances that she’s up for the job” and has been backed by former cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom and others.

New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has ruled himself out of the running.

Suella Braverman, who resigned as home secretary on Wednesday, was highly critical of Ms Truss when she stepped down – an indication, her allies believe, of her intention to run.

On Friday morning, Ms Braverman told Sky News she will make a statement “in due course” on whether she will run for the Tory leadership.

Others who could launch a bid include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, and International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

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Opposition parties say that, whoever is handed the keys to Downing Street, a general election must be called immediately.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson is “unfit to govern” and that the British people “deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos”.

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