Boris Johnson is eligible to return as UK prime minister. A lot of Tories (still) want him to.

October 20, 2022, 4:34 PM UTC
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson.
Daniel Leal—WPA Pool/Getty Images

Backers of Boris Johnson in the ruling Conservative Party are calling for his return as UK prime minister following the dramatic resignation of his successor in 10 Downing Street, Liz Truss.

Johnson, who was only ousted as Britain’s leader in July, hasn’t yet declared his candidacy but is eligible because he remains a Conservative MP. The Times newspaper reported that Johnson is expected to stand, without saying where it obtained the information. Johnson himself has not commented publicly.

His candidacy would be a dramatic twist even in a period of unprecedented chaos in British politics since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Truss herself is set to become the shortest-ruling prime minister in British history when she formally steps down next week, after seeing her premiership implode due to a lack of political instinct and a fierce backlash against her economic plans.

In Johnson’s favor is that he still has a sizable group of loyal and vocal backers in Westminster, many of whom credit him for winning their seats at the 2019 general election when he secured a landslide victory. Grassroots Tory members — who normally have the final say in a Tory leadership contest once MPs have whittled the field down to two — are also big fans of Johnson.

A major hurdle, however, would be winning sufficient support among Conservative MPs to reach the final two of the leadership ballot. Johnson was forced out in disgrace after an exodus of ministers from his scandal-ridden government, and many MPs balk at the suggestion of his return.

As recently as June, 148 Tory MPs voted that they had no confidence in him, and while he did survive the ballot, he was gone weeks later. Johnson also has a major cloud hanging over him in the form of a parliamentary probe into whether he lied to lawmakers over the rule-breaking parties held in Downing Street as Covid-19 spread across the country.

The Tory leadership contest is due to be completed by next Friday. No candidates have yet formally declared they are running, but prominent figures including ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt are expected to throw their hats into the ring.

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