Truss: Boris Johnson ‘loving it’ says Jon Craig
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The momentum behind the campaign to bring back Boris Johnson as Prime Minister is gathering steam with more than 50 MPs already signed up to support him. Mr Johnson, who was forced out just last month, is more than halfway to the 100 threshold needed with campaigners calling on other MPs not to stand against him.
As the recently ousted Prime Minister flies home from the USA following Liz Truss’s resignation this afternoon, 25,000 ordinary Tory members have backed a petition demanding he is reinstated as leader.
A minister involved in the campaign to restore Mr Johnson told the Daily Express that more than 50 MPs have already signed up.
He said: “We had 30 immediately and that has pretty much doubled. We are optimistic about getting past 100 by early next week.”
The campaign expects to be up against former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a final two and have high hopes of winning with the membership.
The minister said: “Afterwards we will need to put some arms around people and have a conciliatory approach to bring people back together.”
It comes as Tory peer Lord Cruddas, who has been campaigning for the return of Mr Johnson since he left office, urged other MPs to step aside for the political heavyweight.
He said: “I am calling on all MPs to not stand against Boris as leader. Another leadership campaign is not what the country needs right now.
“Time for the Conservative Party to put the country first and bring back Boris. He is the only candidate that has the mandate of the British people.”
The former PM’s allies have been rushing to support him as speculation grows of a sensational comeback after he led the party to its biggest majority in decades in 2019.
Tory MP Marco Longhi told Express.co.uk that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour, which is surging ahead in the polls, would be “terrified” at the prospect of a return by Mr Johnson.
The Dudley North MP added: “I am calling for Boris to come back, he has my full support, just as he had it before. It’s in the national interest.”
Cabinet Office minister Brendan Clarke-Smith added: “We need somebody who can turn the tide and avert the disaster of a Labour government. We need Boris Johnson.”
Trade minister Sir James Duddridge said he hoped Mr Johnson had enjoyed his Caribbean holiday but it was “time to come back” as there were a “few issues at the office that need addressing”.
Loyalist and ex-culture secretary Nadine Dorries revealed she had spoken to Mr Johnson but declined to say whether he had decided to run.
Ms Dorries told Sky News: “There is only one MP who has the mandate of the British public, who won a general election only three years ago with an 80-seat majority, and that was Boris Johnson.
“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. Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive. I am quite confident he will get the 100 signatures.”
Other Tory MPs who have publicly expressed their support for a return by Mr Johnson include Andrea Jenkyns, Michael Fabricant and former Tory co-chair Amanda Milling.
Ms Milling said: “As one of the original Boris Johnson backers there is only one candidate who has a proven track record of delivery for the British people.”
Tory MP Karl McCartney added: “One of the main reasons for the largest majority I have achieved after various General Elections I have stood in, in Lincoln, is because Boris Johnson was our Prime Minister and leader of Conservatives and promised to deliver Brexit. Many of my constituents want him back. I do too.”
Meanwhile, Claire Bullivant of the Conservative Post, who has organised the petition calling for Mr Johnson’s return, said it had “gone mad” as thousands added their names.
However, the former PM’s return could be complicated by the ongoing inquiry into whether he lied to the Commons over the partygate saga.
Tory veteran Sir Roger Gale said: “Until that investigation is complete and he is found guilty or cleared, there should be no possibility of him returning to Government.”
The final straw for Mr Johnson came in July with questions about his judgment over the Chris Pincher affair, after the then-Tory whip faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
But he previously fuelled speculation over a comeback as he signed off his final PMQs by declaring “mission largely accomplished, for now” and adding: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
It comes after Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, and party chairman Sir Jake Berry tonight set out the rules for the turbocharged leadership race.
Hopefuls need the backing of at least 100 fellow Conservative MPs by Monday afternoon and there will be an online vote for members if two candidates make it through the parliamentary stages.
The contest has officially kicked off following Ms Truss’s resignation on Thursday afternoon after just 44 days in office.
The outgoing PM has been fighting to stay in Number 10 following her disastrous mini-budget on September 23, which spooked financial markets with sweeping unfunded tax cuts.
Ms Truss attempted to save her premiership by sacking Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor and drafting in Jeremy Hunt.
But she faced a fresh blow last night when Suella Braverman, a popular figure among the Tory right, departed as Home Secretary.
And there were chaotic scenes in the Commons as Tory MPs were threatened with having the whip suspended if they rebelled in a fracking vote which descended into a farce.
Ms Truss’s resignation has left a vacancy for the top job in Government.
Other possible runners and riders include Mr Sunak, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Ms Braverman. Mr Hunt and former Cabinet minister Michael Gove have ruled themselves out.
Mr Johnson’s father Stanley told TalkTV that his son could be making a dramatic comeback to power.
He said: “He’s going to be crucial in uniting these warring parts of the Tory Party.
“And why do I say that? He is probably the only man who will push for Brexit – I wasn’t very keen on Brexit as you know – but he realises now that the crucial thing is to rebuild the relationship with Europe.
“We look at the trade figures now and we realise that, as you said if we don’t make an effort to be closer to Europe now, we are going to be in trouble.
“Boris really could be a unifier, and he is probably the only man who can bring the wings of the party together.
“He has to dump the right wing and fix himself firmly in the centre, back under control.”
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