When has Boris Johnson not been plotting his return? Possibly while giving speeches overseas for a very handsome financial compensation. Otherwise, it would seem all the time. Until now.
According to friends of the former PM, Johnson would agree not to challenge Rishi Sunak if he is given a safe seat at the next election, the Times reports today.
The paper claims that Johnson would “leverage” his position over Sunak depending on the party’s performance at the May local elections. However, the Prime Minister told broadcasters during a visit to Scotland: “I think the former prime minister has declared his intention to stand in his current seat in Uxbridge.” How long this will remain the case is unclear. At the last election, Johnson won his seat with a majority of just over 7,000 but it is considered more vulnerable today.
Despite Johnson’s future being ambiguous, it’s obvious the former PM wants to keep himself in the running, just in case, and topping up his coffers. Johnson has received the most donations of this Parliament after a single contribution of £1m from a Brexiteer and crypto investor, Christopher Harborne. This latest donation means Johnson tops Sir Keir Starmer, who had previously been the most donated-to MP with £740,000.
Harborne is a former Tory donor and, in 2019, was one of the bigger bankroller of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. This comes after Johnson earned £303,880 for speeches given in December alone.
Accommodation is also not a problem, with Johnson and his family being supported by the billionaire Bamford family, Anthony and Carole Bamford provided two homes during December, declared as costing £10,000 each for the month alongside free accommodation for the Johnsons since leaving Downing Street.
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Apart from the manouevring, what about Johnson’s involvement in day to day politics ? For now, his political salience is going nowhere. Keir Starmer claimed Johnson could lead the opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and that he – Starmer – would offer Sunak cover to strike a deal with Brussels. Others look to be airbushing him from history. Business Secretary Grant Shapps appears to have inadvertently posted a photo removing Johnson from the image.
Only Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, remains utterly loyal. She has called for his return as leader, saying “nothing has gone right for us since”. A best-selling novelist of the romantic kind, she is the author of the forthcoming book, believed to be titled The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson.
It’s impossible with Boris to know what he might do next. But he will have been cheered to read a recent Politico article positing that some Tories see Sunak as a bit “cringe”.
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