Boris Johnson Return “Unlikely”, British Think Tank Says: As of Thursday evening, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had the backing of 50 Conservative Party members of parliament to run to be the next leader of the party – half of the 100 he needs to be considered a candidate for party leadership. It follows the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss, who replaced Johnson following his forced resignation this summer.
Truss’ resignation came after weeks of infighting within the Conservative Party, and now facing catastrophically low polling numbers and a general election in two years, some are calling for Johnson to take that support from the parliamentary party and convert it into a campaign to take back his old job.
Boris Johnson Reboot?
Nadine Dorries MP, a former Johnson cabinet member and long-time ally of the former PM, said on Thursday that she is “confident” he will get the support he needs in the party to run to be the next leader, but not everyone is convinced she is right.
Ben Harris-Quinney, the chairman of the Bow Group conservative think tank, told 19FortyFive on Thursday that Johnson is not likely to receive the support of a sufficient number of MPs to appear on the ballot.
“It’s unlikely Johnson will be allowed to stand, he will hoover up loyalists quickly, but will likely then struggle to hit 100,” Harris-Quinney said.
If Johnson fails to receive that support from MPs as Harris-Quinney predicts, the Conservative Party could be in real trouble.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Conservative MP Paul Bristow said that the strong message he is receiving from his constituents is that they want Johnson to return to Downing Street.
“I went to my constituency at the weekend and I always want to talk to my constituents and see how they feel,” Bristow said. “And the strong message that I got was ‘bring back Boris Johnson.’”
“I stood in a by-election six months before Boris Johnson, we won that historic mandate, that election, I came third. We were 19 points behind in the polls before Boris Johnson became prime minister,” Bristow also said, adding that if Johnson chooses to stand, he will listen to his constituents.
Is Johnson Still Popular?
While many members of parliament still loyal to Johnson believe that he’s the only possible candidate with a real chance of beating the Labour Party in the next general election, Harris-Quinney believes that Johnson may not be as popular as he once was.
Referencing the former prime minister’s COVID-19 lockdown party scandal, the Bow Group chairman suggested that Johnson may not be as popular in the next election as he was in the last.
“Johnson’s popularity dropped by a greater margin pre-partygate than after, because he wasn’t delivering. The problem is despite promises he governed well to the left of Blair, more immigration, more woke, more tax, more borrowing, more spending,” He said.
“He won big in 2019 because he had the support of the conservative and Brexit base, but he lost that support as his true colours emerged. Proper conservatism is the only route to majority government for the Conservative Party.”
Harris-Quinney also told 19FortyFive that the only candidate he believes could deliver on Johnson’s pledges would be Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary under Liz Truss who resigned following rumors of a 90-minute argument with Truss over her efforts to liberalize the UK’s immigration laws.
“A national rather than international focus, and a PM who would focus on ordinary people’s plummeting standards of living,” he said.
On matters of the economy, Harris-Quinney also suggested that Truss wasn’t as clued up as she thought she was.
“The Bow Group recommended £250 billion in cuts to Net Zero, international aid and HS2, alongside a number of other useless projects, that would have allowed the government to stop printing, borrowing and spending so as to get inflation under control and instill growth. Liz Truss had a very fragile understanding of economics, but an even more fragile understanding of competence and governance,” he said.
While Truss didn’t campaign on those issues like Johnson did in 2019, both ultimately failed to deliver on them anyway.
What If He Gets the Parliamentary Backing?
If Johnson does get the backing of 100 MPs, Harris-Quinney says he could win the support of the party members and ultimately be elected. However, he also warned that Johnson should listen to the members and consider the backlash over rumors of his wife’s involvement in the decision-making in Downing Street.
Carrie Johnson was often blamed for Johnson’s occasional shifts leftward and frequently described as the “puppet master” in No. 10.
“Boris is just another liberal globalist with charisma and eccentricity, but the desire to govern with popular support may outweigh the other hooks in him. If he managed to make it through to the Party members and learned the lesson of his last government,” Harris-Quinney said.
“Put his wife and her views out to pasture, deliver on cutting immigration down to tens of thousands, ending illegal immigration, cutting Net Zero and all other spending that hinders rather than serves the public, and fighting the culture war on the right side – he might just make it back to Number 10 next week, and stay there for more than a few weeks too.”
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.
Note: The piece has been updated to clarify one point by the author.