Here’s Boris! No, the British public are not living in ‘The Overlook Hotel’ but the former Prime Minister may make a sudden return to power. On a family holiday in the Dominican Republic, he could perform another U-turn: on not being Prime Minister. Guido Fawkes reveals Johnson enjoys 52 supporters already (15 of whom are anonymous). With 100 backers required to reach the online ballot of members, the competition is tightening up.
It is astonishing the contest could be game, set and match to Johnson. Seen as the candidate with the greatest electoral appeal, his election victory in 2019 means bringing him back, his supporters say, would quash calls for an immediate general election and reverse the party’s negative poll ratings. This is despite 68% of people disapproving of Johnson’s performance as Prime Minister a week before leaving office.
Indeed, some Conservative MPs are less than displeased about the prospect of a Johnson comeback. Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet since 1983, told Times Radio he would resign from the Conservative party and stand as an independent if Johnson became the next Prime Minister. Similarly, John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, said he would give up the party whip. With that number of independent MPs, it could almost be enough for Change UK – take two – to take off.
The ‘Stop Boris’ campaign has built up momentum in less than 24 hours. Critics of the leadership election rules state the threshold of 100 MPs is designed to prevent Johnson from facing a vote among the membership, which he would undoubtedly win. Johnson’s critics, however, fear he would be able to unite the right of the party – even though he is not terriblyright-wing himself – and reach the members.
The scale of discontent within the Conservative party feels almost terminal. Could it be on the same scale as the Corn Laws? Repealed by Prime Minister Robert Peel in 1846, the move was vehemently opposed by his backbench protectionists. The move left the party unable to form another majority administration until the 1870s under Benjamin Disraeli.
Though a political tidal wave of that magnitude is not (yet) upon us, rumblings are afoot. Nigel Farage, now of GB News fame, says the next leader will be a “globalist, a remainer, a big state high-taxer” and declared the Conservative party “dead”. Despite announcing his withdrawal from active politics last year, Farage spoke about a need to replace the Conservative party with one that could “fight globalism”. Actions, of course, speak louder than words.
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As for Johnson, the shadow of the Privileges Committee investigation over whether he misled MPs regarding Partygate looms large. If found to have lied, he could face a by-election or ten day suspension from Parliament, which would hardly redeem him in the eyes of the public. Coming back for another bite of the cherry may appear rewarding, but it never usually reaps rewards. Just look at what happened to Kevin Rudd…