As Britain’s current Prime Minister, Liz Truss, ends a disastrously short term in office, the race is on again – much to the disbelief of many Britons – to find a new leader of the Conservative Party.
And there is at least a chance that the new tenant of 10 Downing Street could be the same as the old one. While Johnson has yet to officially throw his hat in the ring, his supporters and some right-wing newspapers say his return would be in the “national interest” – a prospect that immediately drew violent reactions.
Few characters divisive public opinion and stimulate the normally moderate temperament of Britons like Johnson.
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The front pages of many British newspapers had already moved away from Truss on Friday. The sun led with “Bojo: I’ll be back!” while the Daily Express asked: “He couldn’t, he…”
The Daily Mail prepared its readers for a political exchange: “Boris v. Rishi: Fight for soul of the Tories”, referring to Johnson’s former Treasury Secretary and enemy Rishi Sunak, who is widely considered to be the frontrunner on the road to becoming the next prime minister.
Could the “big dog” really be let out of the kennel, the radio host mused one morning, using a Johnson nickname.
“No no no no no no! Under no circumstances whatsoever. Ever. Always, always, did you hear?” tweeted British actor Stephen Fry. “Let’s think about it seriously #BorisJohnson again? Did that really happen? … actually I hate living here”, wrote another online commenter.
The comeback rumors have sparked outbursts of anger among some in their own party.
“Go back to the beach,” said Conservative Grandee David Davis when asked about the possible return of Johnson, who was reportedly on vacation in the Caribbean.
“He had his chance,” former Conservative Cabinet Secretary David Lidington told British radio on Friday. other politicians threatened to resign from the party if Johnson returns and to run as an independent candidate.
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The hash tag “#BorisOrBust‘ briefly trended on Twitter in the UK on Friday, while many loyalists in the Bring Boris back camp on social media were ecstatic about his rumored resurrection. “Come back, boss. The country needs you, you’ve had enough breaks.” tweeted Conservative lawmaker Marco Longhi.
“It’s very simple. If the Conservative Party wants a chance to fight in the next general election, there is only one man who can help them succeed in this mission.” wrote another online relating to Johnson’s sweeping election victory in 2019 and his ability to mobilize non-traditional Tory voters.
Johnson, who was reportedly on a lucrative speaking tour in the United States followed by his Caribbean vacation, is due to fly back to his father Stanley Johnson in London this weekend said a morning talk show on Friday. “He’s on a plane,” he added.
The process for becoming the next leader of the ailing Conservative Party has already been laid down, with any candidate needing more than 100 votes from the party’s MPs to advance to the next round. There are currently 357 Conservative MPs in office.
Given the high bar, it’s possible that just one person will secure that number, meaning a new prime minister could be installed as early as Monday when nominations are finalized.
From Friday political experts and parliamentary insiders speculated that Johnson has already won almost 140 supporters.
If there is more than one winning candidate, the hopefuls are thinned out before the final two are put forward to the broader 170,000 members of the national Conservative Party. Officials, who want a speedy handover of power, have said the contest will be complete by October 28 at the latest.
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In his resignation speech to Parliament in July, Johnson made an odd classic-era reference to a returning Roman lawmaker, Cincinnatus, who gave up power and returned to his farm, only to be recalled from his plow to calm the chaos.
Another of Johnson’s political heroes, Winston Churchill, was also Prime Minister twice, from 1940 to 1945 and again after the end of World War II from 1951 to 1955.
Johnson’s tenure was marred by a series of scandals after voters were angered that he refused to be held accountable after ‘Partygate’ when he was accused of holding office parties while the rest of the UK conformed to those set by the government-imposed strict coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
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He was the first sitting Prime Minister to be fined by police for breaking the law and remains under investigation for lying to Parliament. He was ousted under pressure from his own lawmakers, many of whom lost confidence in him.
A Tory politician, Crispin Blunt, acknowledged that Johnson had “the most amazing ability”. However he said Sky News on Friday: “There are a weakness or two in this personality.”
Johnson, he said, “does not have the character” needed to restore the party’s reputation amid the current crisis.
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Many in the Labor Party and other political opposition groups are vocation clamoring for a general election rather than an attempt by the Conservative Party to hold on to power.
The reverberation is already going global. A foreign government that suggested Johnson might be happy to take back the reins in London: Kyiv.
Johnson, who has made three trips to Ukraine as prime minister since Russia’s February 24 invasion, has named streets and pastries after him in the embattled country and has frequently been praised for his solidarity by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.