Boris Johnson returns to Britain as he considers a bold bid to win a second term as prime minister just weeks after he was forced to resign, with some colleagues warning his return could create more political chaos.
Potential candidates to replace Prime Minister Liz Truss, who abruptly resigned Thursday after just six weeks in power, embarked on a frantic weekend of lobbying to secure enough nominations to enter the leadership race before Monday deadline.
Johnson, who was vacationing in the Caribbean when Truss resigned and has not said anything publicly about an offer for his old job, has drawn the support of dozens of Conservative lawmakers but needs to secure 100 nominations to be considered.
Trade Minister James Duddridge said Friday that Johnson told him he is “ready to do it” and that the former leader will fly back to Britain on Saturday.
Johnson was booed by some passengers on the plane to Britain, according to a Sky News reporter on the flight.
It would be an extraordinary political resurrection for the former journalist, who left office mired in scandal but complaining that his colleagues “changed the rules in the middle” of a career, a blow to Conservative lawmakers who did not allow him to serve a full term.
Former defense minister Penny Mordaunt became the first candidate to officially declare her intention to run to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, but Johnson and Rishi Sunak, who was once her finance minister, led potential contenders before next week’s vote.
The prospect of Johnson’s return to government is a polarizing issue for many in the Conservative Party, which is deeply divided after sacking four prime ministers in six years.
To some conservative lawmakers, Johnson is a vote-winner, capable of appealing across the country not only with his celebrity but also with his kind of spirited optimism.
For others, Johnson is a toxic figure, and the question is whether he can convince the dozens of lawmakers who abandoned him that he is now the person who can unite the party and turn its fortunes around.
“SPIRAL OF DEATH”
Former Conservative leader William Hague said Friday that Johnson’s return was possibly the worst idea he had heard in nearly half a century as a party member. He said it would lead to a “death spiral” for Tories.
If Johnson can secure the required number of nominations, he is likely to go toe-to-toe with Sunak, who resigned as his finance minister in July, saying his former boss was unable to make tough decisions.
Sunak is the first leadership candidate to reach the 100-nomination threshold to enter the contest before Monday’s deadline, according to news reports. Johnson currently has about half of that support.
Johnson is currently being investigated by Parliament’s Privileges Committee to establish whether he lied to the House of Commons about the lockdown-breaking parties. If ministers are found to have knowingly misled parliament, they are expected to resign.
The race to become Britain’s fourth prime minister in four years has sped up to take just a week. Under the rules, only three candidates will be able to make it to the first ballot by lawmakers on Monday afternoon, with the last two going to a vote by party members for a result next Friday.