Just a few months ago Boris Johnson stood outside Downing Street to announce he would be leaving Number 10 – telling the nation “them’s the breaks”. But now, in an extraordinary turn of events, he could be back.
The downfall of his successor Liz Truss – who on Thursday, after only 45 days as prime minister, announced her resignation – has left an opportunity for the potential return of Mr Johnson.
The Times has reported it has been told the 58-year-old is expected to stand. And though he still faces an inquiry into whether he misled parliament over the Partgate scandal, Mr Johnson appears to have retained support among the Tory party members.
Only days ago, Mr Johnson – who served as prime minister for just over three years until last month – topped a poll of Tory party members who were asked who they would most like to take over if Ms Truss resigned in the next few weeks. Mr Johnson scored 32 per cent in the YouGov survey of 530 Conservative party members, conducted on 17 and 18 October.
But who decides and can Mr Johnson run again despite only leaving Downing Street last month?
In her short resignation speech on Thursday, Ms Truss said she will stay on as prime minister until her successor has been picked. She said she had agreed with 1922 committee chair, Sir Graham Brady, that “there will be a leadership election to be completed in the next week”.
Sir Graham later explained that he had spoken to Tory Party chair, Jake Berry, who he said had “confirmed that it will be possible to a conduct a ballot and conclude a leadership election by Friday the 28th of October so we should have a new leader in place before the fiscal statement which will take place on the 31st”.
According to a House of Commons Library research briefing on the Conservative Party leadership elections, “the leader of the Party must be a sitting MP”. Despite leaving Number 10 Mr Johnson is, of course, still MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. And as things stand, it seems Mr Johnson would be free to make a bid to be the party’s leader – and therefore potentially become the country’s prime minister – once more. The Independent has contacted the Conservative Party for comment.
The Tory leadership elections, the research briefing outlines, “usually consist of two stages … Conservative MPs choose two candidates to put forward to stage two” and then “Party members are balloted. The candidate with the most votes wins”.
However, when Sir Graham was questioned by reporters on Thursday the situation initially appeared less clear. Asked whether members would be included in the process, he said “that is the expectation”, adding: “So, the reason I’ve spoken to the Party chairman and discussed the parameters of a process is to look at how we can make the whole thing happen, including the party being consulted by Friday next week.”
Asked if there would definitely be two candidates going forward to the membership, Sir Graham replied: “The party rules say there will be two candidates unless there is only one candidate.”
Later on Thursday, Sir Graham said candidates to replace Ms Truss will need at least 100 nominations from Tory MPs. Appearing alongside him, Berry explained that the board of the Tory Party had met at 4pm.
He added: “In conjunction with the 1922 committee, we have decided that if the party should decide to put forward two candidates there will be an expedited, binding online vote of Conservative party members to choose its next leader”. He continued: “All stages of the leadership election will be concluded by no later than Friday the 28th of October.”