Constituents in Uxbridge, where former prime minister Boris Johnson is MP, have urged Conservative politicians and the Tory party membership to “bring Boris back” for a second term in Downing Street. Attempting to emulate his political hero Winston Churchill, who returned to No 10 in 1951, six years after being ousted following the end of World War 2, Mr Johnson was pictured in a British Airways flight back to England from the Caribbean on Friday having said he was “up for it”. Roughly 50 MPs have declared their public support for him, though estimates are as high as 62. In a vox pop conducted by Sky News, however, the public support for Mr Johnson seemed beyond question.
One person said: “Boris Johnson was actually the prime minister that took us out of Brexit, so I am a big fan of Boris Johnson. I don’t think we actually gave him a fair chance based on what he had to deal with.”
A woman, less certain of the prospect of Mr Johnson, said: “Well, they are going to have to have somebody in, please, but it is who they are going to have to have in place. I don’t know whether Boris would be any good at being back again.”
Another man said: “Do you know what, he did a good job during a crisis, and I think if it had not been for the dishonesty of it all, Partygate and everything else that he did, I think he would have done a good job.”
Another woman said: “He has got charisma. The only problem is the Tories are fighting against each other at the moment. Who can pull them together? I’m not sure if Boris can, I’m not sure if Sunak can.”
A third woman said: “I would rather not have an election. I would rather go back to Boris because I think he was great. He made a few mistakes but who doesn’t?”
Finally, one man put it simply: “Bring Boris back, he’s the man!”
Mr Johnson, though yet to officially confirm he is rerunning for office, flew back from a holiday in the Dominican Republic on Friday as, it is believed, he prepared to launch his campaign.
But the popularity of Mr Johnson appears more substantial among the public and Tory party membership than it does MPs.
As backers of Rishi Sunak claimed on Friday night he had already crossed the threshold of the support of 100MPs needed to stand for Prime Minister, Mr Johnson is lagging behind, with between 48 and 62 supporters.
Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is backing Mr Johnson, under whom he served as Brexit opportunities minister, has said he is “in favour of [the decision] going to the membership”.
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Mr Rees-Mogg said Tory party members should decide who is the next leader rather than MPs, telling the Daily Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast that returning Mr Johnson to No 10 would calm the stock markets.
The Business Secretary said Mr Johnson’s reinstatement would provide financial stability because it would mean the general election would not need to be held until late 2024.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I’m always in favour of the members deciding the leadership – I think that’s the right place for it to go. And I think the 1922 Committee and the Board of the Tory Party have done really well to get it to a position where that can be done swiftly. I’m in favour of it going to the membership.”
He went on to say that it was “an error” for Tory MPs to dump Mr Johnson, adding: “Boris Johnson’s attraction is that he is a big, charismatic political figure who is able to get things done and who is able to connect with voters in a way that no other politician of this era can.”
Mr Rees-Mogg’s market prediction was contrary to that of some economists, with the head of currency strategy at Rabobank, Jane Foley, telling the Financial Times Mr Johnson’s time in office had been characterised by “a lack of leadership from a government very distracted by one scandal after another”, and “the chance that that could come back is not going to be welcomed by markets”.
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