Boris Johnson appears to be on the verge of attempting a stunning political comeback.
Allies of the former UK prime minister – who resigned in disgrace only three months ago – believe he will stand in the leadership contest that will follow the resignation of his successor, Liz Truss.
Two sources who worked on Johnson’s last campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, in 2019, said he would run again this time.
Multiple allies have made the case that Johnson could be a unity candidate who could bring stability to the country, despite being forced to quit in July after a series of scandals made his position untenable.
Asked how they could justify Johnson standing to be PM again, one MP who campaigned for Johnson in the 2019 leadership campaign told CNN: “Socialists will destroy our economy and if you don’t understand that then I genuinely fear for our future.”
Another MP who supported Johnson in 2019 said he was the only candidate who could comfortably win over both Conservative MPs and members of the Conservative Party.
One problem for Johnson could be the fact that he is facing a parliamentary inquiry over his conduct while in office, when he was accused of multiple breaches of Covid lockdown rules – allegations he denies.
Johnson’s closest allies said he was being actively lobbied in the hours after Truss’ resignation speech, with MPs making the case to him that he represented the party’s best shot at stability in the medium term.
One Johnson ally, Brendan Clarke-Smith, told Sky News he thought Johnson would “potentially” be interested. “We need someone who can come in, we need somebody who can bring people together, somebody who actually has got that mandate. So a mandate from people in the last general election, a mandate from party members and somebody actually who can get this party going again, get us winning elections again,” he said.
“The only person that I think that ticks all those boxes is Boris Johnson.”
James Duddridge, a minister in the Department for International Trade, said he supported a Johnson comeback. “I hope you enjoyed your holiday boss. Time to come back. Few issues at the office that need addressing,” he tweeted.
Other Conservative MPs said the manner of Johnson’s exit ruled out a return. One, Justin Tomlinson, told Sky News: “I don’t think a sufficient enough time has probably passed for the party to then unite behind him and for me this now is about us, frankly, being grown up, being pragmatic and putting the country first.”