After the resignation of Liz Truss, could Boris Johnson return to lead the UK?
Some adore him, others are ready to quit if he returns to Downing Street. In a new twist, Boris Johnson is seeking Friday to obtain the necessary sponsorships to try to become British Prime Minister again.
On vacation in the Caribbean, he is not yet a candidate, any more than Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister with whom he was still recently at loggerheads. But the two men seem best placed in this accelerated election, internal to the Conservative party, which must give birth to a new prime minister in a week maximum, after the resignation of Liz Truss Thursday, ephemeral leader for 45 days.
As the country yearns for stability after months of a bad political soap opera featuring divisiveness, betrayal and incompetence, Boris Johnson, the charismatic former Brexit hero who resigned in July after a series of scandals, continues to divide opinion: 52% of Britons do not want his return according to a YouGov opinion poll. But 56% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 would be « happy » or « very happy » with his return.
For his supporters, it’s him or the obliteration of the Conservative Party in the next election. They also see him as the only one to be legitimate, having offered a historic majority to the conservatives in the 2019 legislative elections.
Defense Minister Ben Wallace, very popular with the base of the party, thus declared on Friday that he “leaned” for him; Business and Energy Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg was the first cabinet member to back him, saying « only Boris can win the next election ».
An unofficial count from the political site Guido Fawkes gave him Friday afternoon 62 support from deputies, against 81 for Rishi Sunak and 23 for Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Relations with Parliament, the first to officially launch. They need 100 sponsorships by Monday 2:00 p.m. to be able to be a candidate, to be found among 357 Conservative MPs.
The behind-the-scenes negotiations are going well. Boris Johnson is preparing to return to London and the weekend promises to be bloody.
His adversaries are horrified at the thought of his return.
They remember the illegal parties washed down in Downing Street during the anti-COVID lockdowns, his repeated lies and his lack of discipline which had undermined confidence, leading to dozens of resignations in government, and his own on the 7th. July.
“This soap opera is turning into an absolute farce”, declared his former assistant Will Walden, asking the Conservative party “to pull themselves together”. « We’re doing what he likes, talking about Boris, » he said, comparing the situation to Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
« He is currently under investigation by a parliamentary committee. […] “said Conservative MP Richard Graham. It is « almost 100% certain that the Privileges Committee will agree that he misled Parliament ». In which case Boris Johnson, still an MP, could be suspended.
This return would send his party « directly into the mess we were in when he was in power », commented another elected official.
If two candidates get all 100 endorsements, MEPs will vote on their preferred candidate on Monday for guidance. And it will then be up to party activists to decide by an online vote. And even if he is less popular than he was, Boris, a formidable orator, remains very popular with the base of the party.
« If he is in the finalists, then it is likely that he will win, » said Simon Usherwood, professor of political science at the Open University. “The problem was his personality, and it hasn’t changed since he left,” he also says.
In a context of economic and social crisis, the Labor opposition, largely in the lead in the polls, is calling loud and clear for early legislative elections.
The centrist Liberal Democrat party wants to block Boris Johnson’s candidacy, pointing out that he was found guilty of breaking the law during « partygate ». « Boris Johnson is the English Berlusconi », denounced Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the party.
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