foreign interests

Boris Johnson Could Really, Actually Be Prime Minister Again

BoJo announcing his resignation a mere three and a half months ago. Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

With British leader Liz Truss announcing her resignation Thursday after 45 disastrous days in office, a tightly compressed weeklong race is on to be the next prime minister. And a significant faction of the ruling Conservative Party wants Boris Johnson — who announced his resignation in July after presiding over an endless series of scandals — back in 10 Downing Street.

According to observers and oddsmakers, Johnson is one of the top two or three contenders to succeed Truss. It still seems more likely that Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the Exchequer who lost to Truss in a leadership election last month, will end up in the top job. But Johnson has some undeniable momentum going into the weekend, even if he’s conveniently been on vacation in the Caribbean during the political tumult of the past few weeks. (He is reportedly returning to England shortly but has not made any public comment about throwing his hat in the prime-ministerial ring.)

Johnson’s backers argue he is well equipped to handle the economic headwinds battering the U.K., most notably skyrocketing inflation. He won a landslide victory for the Tories in 2019 with promises to execute Brexit, and though his popularity plummeted in 2021 and 2022, in large part thanks to his personal conduct, his allies retain faith in his electoral magic. And the pro-Johnson faction includes some prominent names, including the foppish reactionary Jacob Rees-Mogg, a close ally of the ex-PM.

“He is a known winner, and that is certainly who I’m putting my name against because I want us to win the general election,” former culture secretary Nadine Dorries told Sky News. “Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive.”

But Johnson has plenty of haters, too, in his own party, which may make it difficult for him to emerge as a consensus candidate.

The nomination window closes Monday afternoon. Candidates will need to clear a high bar to even make the final ballot: a public pledge of support from 100 Tory MPs. Since there are 357 total, a maximum of three candidates can reach that threshold. As of Friday morning, Sunak had garnered 60 pledges of support; Johnson, 32; and Penny Mordaunt, who came in third in the leadership race last month, 16. If more than one candidate gets to 100, the race will be decided by Conservative Party members, who number about 170,000 — and who installed Truss in power just six weeks ago.

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Boris Johnson Could Really, Actually Be Prime Minister Again