Calls grow for Conservatives to bring back Boris Johnson as prime minister

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, (MTI/AP/Jessica Taylor)
By Thomas Brooke
5 Min Read

There are growing calls within the British commentariat and Conservative party membership to reinstate former leader Boris Johnson as prime minister following the incumbent Liz Truss’ catastrophic policy u-turns and the latest devastating polling figures.

More than 10,000 Conservative party members and supporters have backed a petition pushed by the Conservative Post news outlet, demanding that Johnson be “reinstated into his rightful position to lead our party into the next General Election and deliver Great Britain a great future.”

Further to this, influential associate political editor for the conservative-friendly Telegraph, Christopher Hope, penned a persuasive piece in the newspaper on Monday in which he reported the existence of a WhatsApp message by “a prominent member of the 2019 intake of Tory MPs” calling for Rishi Sunak as prime minister, Jeremy Hunt as chancellor, and Penny Mordaunt as foreign secretary, confirming the suspicions of many that a coup to replace Liz Truss is already underway.

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Hope, however, writes that it would be anti-democratic to appoint yet another leader of the party without going to either the membership or the electorate, and concludes that the “only way to heal the wounds in the party is to do something unconscionable until a few weeks ago: ask Boris Johnson back to take over again as leader.”

Hope’s analysis is unsurprisingly shared by influential allies of the former prime minister, including his trusted friend and colleague, Nadine Dorries MP. The former secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport under Boris Johnson’s leadership, Dorries dismissed the idea that Rishi Sunak, or indeed anyone else, could be an acceptable “unity candidate” to replace Truss, insisting “no one has enough support.”

“Only one MP has a mandate from party members and the British public — a mandate with an 80 seat majority. Boris Johnson.”

Dorries tweeted on Monday that the choices for the party are simple: “Back Liz [Truss], bring back Boris or face a general election within weeks.”

The latter is an option likely to instill fear into the parliamentary party, even those who hold formidable majorities in constituencies in which it would have been unconscionable six months ago to consider they could be toppled by Labour.

However, that appears to be the reality now facing huge swathes of Conservative parliamentarians, with an Opinium/MRP poll reported in Monday’s Guardian newspaper projecting a 1997-style landslide electoral victory for Labour, an election that would cost the Tories 219 seats to end up with 137 versus Labour’s projected 411. Furthermore, as many as 10 current cabinet ministers including Jeremy Hunt and Jacob Rees-Mogg would lose their seats.

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With the potential for the party to spectacularly blow the 80-seat majority it acquired under Boris Johnson’s leadership three years ago, and Mail on Sunday commentator Dan Hodges reporting the potential for cabinet resignations within the next 48 hours, Peter Cruddas, a peer who has historically been one of the Conservatives’ largest party donors, believes the time is now for the former leader to return.

“This is ridiculous, we must have Boris back to return order to the party. A democratically elected leader by members and the electorate!”

Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch

Long-time Conservative MEP, and chair of the Conservative-friendly Freedom Association, David Campbell Bannerman, echoed these sentiments, stating that his preference between Rishi Sunak being “imposed over the top of members” and the return of Johnson would be the latter.

Johnson himself has remained tight-lipped about the potential of a political comeback, choosing to refrain from commenting on the current political landscape since pledging his support of Liz Truss during the leadership contest with Rishi Sunak. How the current state of play could evolve to see the return of the politician still hugely popular with the Conservative party membership remains to be seen.

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