LONDON (AP) — The dizzying race to replace Liz Truss as British prime minister got even more savage Saturday when former leader Boris Johnson returned to the United Kingdom amid speculation he will run to regain his old job.
Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals just three months ago, but he boarded a flight back to London after vacationing in the Dominican Republic, days after the dramatic resignation of his successor, Liz Truss.
He remains a divisive figure among Conservative lawmakers.
Former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said on Saturday morning that it was “hard to see” how Johnson could become prime minister again when he is “absorbed and distracted” by an ongoing investigation into alleged Downing Street parties while the rest of the country was watching. the COVID-19 lockdown rules and Johnson’s remarks to parliament afterwards. The new prime minister is supposed to be in office on October 28.
Still, Johnson has the public backing of several other former cabinet colleagues, including former Home Secretary Priti Patel, who tweeted on Saturday: “Boris has a mandate to deliver our elected manifesto and a proven track record of making the big decisions.” correctly”.
Johnson needs the endorsement of 100 lawmakers by 2 pm Monday to be on the ballot.
Johnson’s former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, who precipitated Johnson’s departure by resigning in July in protest against his former boss, is another possible candidate. Sunak lost to Truss in a vote of rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party just over seven weeks ago, but lawmakers from his party strongly supported him. The BBC estimates that he has already reached the threshold of support required to be formally declared a candidate.
Sunak’s warning to Truss during the previous leadership race that aggressive tax cuts would devalue the pound and send interest rates soaring proved correct earlier this month, and he is presented as a safe pair of hands that can prop up the financial markets. Subsequently, the Truss government was forced to reverse almost all of the unfunded cuts he announced.
Conservative lawmaker Helen Grant tweeted that she is backing Sunak again due to his “economic and organizational competence”.
House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt is the only candidate to state publicly that she is running to replace Truss, saying in a tweet on Friday that it represents “a fresh start.”
Mordaunt, a blunt-speaking 49-year-old Royal Navy reservist who briefly served as UK defense secretary in 2019, is the bookmakers’ third favourite. Outside of conservative circles, she is perhaps best known for appearing on the 2014 diving reality show “Splash!” in which the contestants learn to dive.
Johnson has so far won the support of six cabinet ministers, including the respected Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. But he fell behind Sunak in publicly declared support on Saturday, as did Mordaunt. Bookmakers make Sunak the most likely next leader.
The leadership uncertainty comes at a time of weak economic growth and as millions struggle with higher borrowing costs and rising prices for groceries, fuel and other basic items. A growing wave of strikes by train and postal workers, lawyers and others has revealed growing discontent as a recession looms.
Truss resigned on Thursday after a turbulent 45 days, admitting she was unable to deliver on her economic tax cut package, which she was forced to abandon after it caused turmoil in financial markets.