Boris Johnson’s supporters have suggested he has “all” the qualities needed to become the next Conservative party chairman as Rishi Sunak faces a political headache over how to replace Nadhim Zahawi.
The prime minister dramatically sacked Mr Zahawi from the role following an investigation into his tax arrangements.
The probe, by the prime minister’s ethics adviser, found the former chancellor had committed a “serious breach of the ministerial code” over a multimillion pound tax settlement with HMRC.
Mr Sunak had been under intense pressure from Tory MPs in recent days to fire Mr Zahawi amid fears he would hurt the party’s re-election chances.
The role of chairman includes representing the party in the media especially in the run up to votes.
With the local elections campaign due to begin within weeks – and a general election looming – MPs initially thought Mr Zahawi was doing a good job.
“He was doing it well, despite the hand he had been dealt – what with the polls horrific at the moment,” one Tory MP told the Independent.
But when the storm broke over his taxes MPs warned it was “unsustainable” to have a party chairman who could not go on television without being asked about his own tax affairs.
Mr Sunak now faces a difficult choice of successor. The job will require someone who can convince Tory MP he can save their jobs, despite polls which consistently show the party trailing 20 points behind Labour.
Jacob Rees-Mogg was first out of the blocks to suggest Boris Johnson as a possible replacement.
The former cabinet minister told GB News he has “all the right attributes for a party chairman. He is charismatic, he rallies the troops. He’s a sort of fully-loaded Conservative. So I think that type of personality would be a very good one for a party chairman.”
But he added: “I think it’s very difficult to bring back Boris Johnson in a subordinate role because he’s such a big figure that he would dominate any cabinet.”
He advised the prime minister to appoint a party chairman who is “very close to him politically”, which he conceded would not be Mr Johnson, who was ousted from Downing Street last summer after Mr Sunak and others resigned in protest over partygate.
No 10 would not be drawn on when a replacement would be announced. A source said the prime minister wanted to appoint a new party chair as swiftly as possible.