Related video: Boris Johnson's father 'thinks' he'd support his son amid No 10 comeback rumours
Good Morning Britain
We can’t quite believe it either, but with Liz Truss announcing her resignation as prime minister – after just 44 days in office – we’re back to having another Conservative Party leadership election, with the potential for a political comeback for Boris Johnson.
It was only back in July – which, now we mention it, does feel like a decade ago in the politics of 2022 – that Mr Johnson took to the steps of Downing Street to resign as PM, following more than 50 ministerial resignations from his government.
However, with another leadership contest on the horizon, there are reports he could try again for the top job and is expected to cut short his Caribbean holiday following the news of Ms Truss’ impending departure.
According to The Independent, Mr Johnson has reportedly contacted Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, to “get back together”.
Meanwhile, a Johnson ally has told The Telegraph that if the Conservatives are “serious about winning in 2024” and stopping an early general election, then “they need to revert to the guy with a mandate who is a seasoned campaigner”.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, outlined a timetable for electing the next leader of the Conservative Party in a statement issued in Westminster on Thursday.
And to be honest, we’d rather not think about such a chaotic outcome. We’re so tired.
So, what are the current standings like, and in terms of Boris Johnson, how many supporters does he currently have?
Well, according to The Times’ political editor, Steven Swinford, the number of public BoJo supporters is around 26 Tory MPs – we obviously don’t know how many are quietly muttering their backing of the former mayor of London behind the scenes.
And this doesn’t even make him the frontrunner in terms of public declarations of support. Mr Sunak is apparently on more than 40, but allies of the ex-PM appear insistent that he will have enough support.
That’s despite some pretty strong (and some anonymous) comments from some Tory MPs slamming Mr Johnson’s capabilities as prime minister.
LBC’s Ben Kentish has been told by one senior Conservative MP that they will “burn the building down” if Johnson makes a return to No 10, while another spoke to ITV’s Paul Brand to say they would resign if it happened.
\u201cOne minister, asked who they want to take over as leader, says: \u201cI don\u2019t give a f*ck anymore. I\u2019m going to find a bar.\u201d But then describes backers of Rishi Sunak as \u201cnasty, evil bullies\u201d\u2026\n\nAnother senior Tory says they\u2019ll \u201cburn the building down\u201d if Boris Johnson returns\u2026\n\n\ud83d\ude2c\u201d
The newspaper has also reported claims a Conservative would go so far as to “cross the floor” if Mr Johnson makes a comeback, meaning they’d join Labour.
Then there are those who are exercising caution. West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen told the Observer Mr Johnson would be “emboldened” if he was elected leader for the second time, and that there would be “no limits” on what he would do in power.
\u201cTory MP Andrew Bridgen says he\u2019s run his own numbers and thinks Boris Johnson will get 100 backers - but urges colleagues not to do it.\n\n\u201cHe will be emboldened,\u201d he says. \u201cThere would be no limits\u201d on what he would do.\u201d
Elsewhere, former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick told LBC’s The News Agents podcast that he believes he was “right to support him in 2019” and that it could be argued the party “is in such a difficult place that his formidable campaigning skills are required once again”.
At the same time, he added: “His premiership came to an end for a reason, which is that there were serious questions about competence, credibility and ethics, and does the Conservative Party want to go back to that?”
So there’s certainly apprehension over a return for Mr Johnson, and while he may make the final two as the current ‘runner-up’ based on public statements of support, there would be an “indicative vote” from MPs to help party members decide – and that would certainly be interesting to witness.
If there are two candidates remaining, the one who loses the “indicative vote” could well decide to drop out as a result of not garnering enough support from the MPs they would end up leading if successful – making the other the winner outright and denying members a say.
Yet if it does end up being Mr Sunak vs Mr Johnson – an interesting match-up, for sure – something tells us the latter wouldn’t back down after losing an “indicative vote”, given he was quite happy to plough on for a little while longer as his government was struck with mass resignations.
Not to mention there was a petition – reportedly with around 14,000 signatures – back in July calling for Mr Johnson to be reinstated as PM after his resignation, but Tories appeared to cast doubt on its legitimacy and just how many of the backers were party members.
The committee has already had several meetings in private – the most recent being last Wednesday – having started taking oral evidence back in September when the House returned after conference recess.
If the group of MPs decide the House was misled and this constitutes contempt, they have a range of sanctions to choose from – including “oral or written apologies, suspension from the service of the House for a specified period, or expulsion”.
They could also conclude that no sanction should be imposed.
Any recommendation of a sanction, if that’s what the committee decides, would then have to go to MPs for a vote.
It could well be that a suspension is recommended for Mr Johnson if he is indeed found to have been in contempt of parliament, and if the Commons agrees to one of 10 sitting days, 14 calendar days or more, it will trigger the Recall of MPs Act 2015.
If Mr Johnson was suspended for the required period, this would lead to a recall petition opening in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency in west London, and if 10 per cent of constituents sign it, a by-election is called.
According to the House of Commons library, there were 67,335 eligible voters in Mr Johnson’s constituency in December 2021. 10 per cent of this is around 6,733 people.
Given more than 18,000 people voted for Labour’s candidate in the 2019 general election – with 3,026 going to the Liberal Democrats and 1,090 going to the Green Party – it’s likely the threshold would be met if it comes to that.
So yes, if Mr Johnson stands again for Conservative Party leader, and if he does become prime minister, and if he is found to have been in contempt of parliament, and if he is then suspended for the necessary time period, and if a recall petition reaches enough signatures, the sitting PM could well end up having to contest his seat in a by-election.
That’s a lot of ifs, but listen, our outgoing prime minister Liz Truss was defeated by a lettuce – nothing is off the table anymore.
Then again, all of this is dependent on Mr Johnson throwing his (clown) hat in the ring, and he’s yet to do so at the time of writing.
So we can only wait and see for now – and we hate that too.
It is a simple and fundamental principle that the government derives its democratic legitimacy from the people. The future of the country must not be decided by plotting and U-turns at Westminster; it must be decided by the people in a general election. And for this reason The Independent is calling for an election to be held. Have your say and sign our election petition by clicking here.
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