Boris Johnson returns to UK in bid for rapid political comeback

  • Johnson was ousted this year
  • Candidates for the post of Prime Minister need the nomination of 100 MPs
  • Sunak is the bookies’ favorite, followed by Johnson
  • Truss stepped down after the policies caused market turmoil

LONDON, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson returned to Britain from holiday on Saturday and could be pitted against his former finance minister whose resignation in July he helped oust in the race for a second term as prime minister. office

Potential candidates to replace Prime Minister Liz Truss, who resigned on Thursday after six weeks in office, began a frenzied weekend of lobbying to secure enough nominations to enter the leadership contest before Monday’s deadline.

Johnson, who was on vacation in the Caribbean when Truss resigned, has not commented publicly on his old job bid. It has the support of dozens of Conservative MPs, but needs 100 nominations to be considered.

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Trade Minister James Duddridge said on Friday that Johnson had told him he was “up for it”. He said on Saturday that Johnson had secured 100 nominations, although Reuters tallies put him above 40, and Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister whose decision to resign helped push Johnson down to more than 110.

The new prime minister, a post that has changed hands three times in four years, faces a huge inbox—a crisis of survival—as Truss’s fiscal plans roil bond markets, push up government borrowing costs and further strain households and businesses already struggling with spending.

The Sunday Times reported Sunak, currently the bookies’ favourite, and Johnson could meet late on Saturday. It did not detail any planned discussions.

Only former defense minister Penny Mordaunt has formally announced she will run, although a Reuters tally showed she had just 22 nominations ahead of Monday’s 1300 GMT deadline.

A Sky News correspondent on the flight said some of the passengers on the flight to Britain shoved Johnson. Wearing a dark jacket and backpack, Johnson waved to photographers after landing at London’s Gatwick Airport and driving off.

polarization

It would be a surprise return for the former journalist and former London mayor, who left Downing Street shrouded in scandal, with party MPs saying the “rules were partially changed” to prevent him from serving a full term.

Sanak, who entered the leadership race earlier this year, backed the former finance minister to promote another potential contender, Trade Minister Kimi Badenoch, thereby ruling himself out of another bid for the top job.

The prospect of a second Johnson prime ministership is a polarizing issue for many in the Conservative Party, which is deeply divided after seeing four prime ministers in six years.

For some conservative lawmakers, Johnson is a vote-winner, able to appeal across the country with his celebrity image and brand of buoyant optimism. For others he is a toxic figure who will struggle to unify the party and thus undermine efforts to build stable leadership to calm jittery financial markets.

Former home minister Priti Patel said her old boss had “a mandate to deliver our election manifesto and a proven track record of getting big decisions right”.

Andrew Bridgen, another Conservative MP, said he might resign from the parliamentary group if Johnson returned and told Conservatives not to create a “personality cult”.

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague said Johnson’s return would lead to a “death spiral” for the party.

Johnson is currently being investigated by Parliament’s Privileges Committee to establish whether he lied to the House of Commons about parties breaking the lockdown. Ministers found to have deliberately misled Parliament are expected to resign.

This competition has gained momentum in just a week. Under the rules, only three candidates could reach MPs’ first ballot on Monday afternoon, leaving the final two for a vote on Friday that is limited to the Conservative Party’s roughly 170,000 signed-up members.

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Additional reporting by Henry Nichols; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jason Neely

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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