A Boris Johnson comeback as Britain’s prime minister? Some Conservatives hope so

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing St. in London in March 2020.
(Ray Tang / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Several British lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, scrambled to scoop up support Friday ahead of a short, intense contest to replace Liz Truss as the nation’s leader.

Truss quit as prime minister Thursday after a turbulent 45-day tenure, conceding that she could not deliver on her tax-cutting economic plans, which had thrown financial markets into turmoil.

The Conservative Party is holding a race to come up with a replacement party leader, and therefore prime minister, within a week.


Johnson, who remained a lawmaker after Truss became prime minister last month, has not said whether he will run, but his allies in Parliament are working to gather support.

Johnson was forced to resign from office slightly more than three months ago after becoming mired in scandals over his ethics and finances.

Rishi Sunak, Johnson’s former finance minister, and Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, are among the bookmakers’ favorites, as is Johnson himself.

His return would be a remarkable resurrection for a politician who is popular and polarizing in equal measure.

Nominations for a new Conservative Party leader will close Monday afternoon; candidates need the signatures of at least 100 of the 357 Conservative lawmakers, meaning a maximum field of three. Lawmakers will vote to knock out one of those, and will hold an indicative vote on the final two.

The party’s 172,000 members will then get to decide between the two finalists in an online vote. The new leader is scheduled to be selected by Oct. 28.


Out-of-control inflation. Weak currency. An energy crisis. The resignation of yet another prime minister caps off a tumultuous time in Britain.

Oct. 20, 2022

Sunak, who came in second to Truss in a summertime leadership contest, is favored by some as a safe pair of hands who can steady the struggling economy. Mordaunt, who came in third, is popular with the party’s grass roots.

But the wild card in the contest is Johnson, who is adored by some in the party as a proven success with a rare common touch, and reviled by others for the chaos and scandal that marred his three years in office.

Johnson ally Nadine Dorries said the party should pick him because “he is a known winner” who led the Conservatives to a big election victory in 2019.

“Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive,” she told Sky News.

Rishi Sunak — a former investment banker of Indian descent — could become the first person of color to lead Britain.

Aug. 28, 2022

But other Conservative legislators said they would leave the party if Johnson — who faces an investigation by a standards committee over whether he lied to Parliament — returned as leader.

“I cannot see any way forward in government, at any level, for somebody who is under that kind of scrutiny and, I think, highly divisive,” Tory legislator Roger Gale told Times Radio. “And I think that there would be people, indeed like myself, who would find ourselves in the awful position of having to resign” as a Conservative lawmaker.

The party’s second leadership contest this year comes after Truss became the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.

Her free-market economic package roiled financial markets, drove up the cost of government borrowing and home mortgages, and forced an emergency intervention by the Bank of England. Truss executed a series of
U-turns and replaced her ideologically close finance minister but faced rebellion from lawmakers in her party.

Boris Johnson was the London mayor who hosted the Olympics, the leader who pledged to ‘get Brexit done’ and the premier brought down by ‘Partygate.’

July 7, 2022

Truss admitted Thursday that “I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”

The new leader will be Britain’s third prime minister this year, and the Conservative turmoil is fueling demands for a national election. Under Britain’s electoral system, there does not need to be one until 2024, five years after the 2019 contest that was won by the Conservatives under Johnson.

Opposition politicians say the tumult since then — and the decision by Truss to rip up many of the policies on which Johnson was elected — means the government lacks democratic legitimacy.

Polls suggest that if an election were held now, it would be a wipeout for the Conservatives, with the left-of-center Labor Party winning a large majority.

Labor leader Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of presiding over a “revolving door of chaos.”

“This is doing huge damage to our economy and the reputation of our country,” he said. “We must have a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election — now.”