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Birmingham, England — They say absence makes the heart sweeter — and one of the hottest topics of conversation is the absentees at this year’s Conservative conference.
Neither former Prime Minister Boris Johnson nor former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are scheduled to attend the annual party rally that begins in Birmingham on Sunday.
Johnson, who was kicked out of Downing Street by Tory colleagues last month, was last seen on a flight to southern Spain with his wife, Carrie. Sunak, who was defeated in his bid to replace Johnson as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, also vowed to keep his distance, telling his successful rival Liz Truss “because she owns the moment.” sarcastically offered via an anonymous source to give “all the space it needed.”
Of course, Mr Truss is in chaos less than four weeks into her prime ministership after her disastrous ‘mini-budget’ has caused the pound to plummet, borrowing rates to skyrocket and the UK pension industry to nearly collapse. is involved in
Panicked Conservative MPs are already tweeting about Truss’ future as the opposition Labor Party surges to a historic 30-point lead in the polls.And while it may seem unlikely to an outsider, Johnson’s name still lives on Hovering near the top of the betting To be the next Conservative leader.
The former Prime Minister is very popular among Tory members and has outperformed both Truss and Snack in leadership elections over the summer. A petition to have his name added to the final vote has gathered thousands of signatures. And MPs are well aware that he is the only Tory leader in decades to win a decent-sized parliamentary majority.
“Johnson is a ready-made solution for many,” a Conservative MP pointed out this week.
Don’t think the former prime minister will dampen speculation. As he walked out of Downing Street’s famous black door and handed over the reins last month, Johnson offered a distinctive hint that he had ambitions for a comeback.
“I am now like one of those booster rockets that has done its job,” he told the nation. And like Cincinnati, I’m back to the plow.”
If that sounds like the end of the story, political observers were quick to point out that Cincinnatus, a Roman statesman, was back in office when called out, albeit as a dictator. The message from Johnson seemed clear: When people need me, I’ll be back.
Part of Johnson’s motivation lies in the fact that he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong, despite the numerous personal scandals that have engulfed his tenure. He lashed out at his expelled colleague for “changing the rules along the way.”
“Boris will take a long time, and in fact probably never, to accept the fact that the sole architect of the demise of Boris was Boris,” said an observer close to the prime minister.
Asked if Johnson could make a comeback, the same person said, “One thing we’ve always known about Boris is that no one knows what Boris is thinking. Boris included.
Johnson’s former allies believe that even Johnson knows the odds of a Second Coming are slim.
He loves being in the limelight. He loves being the center of attention,” said Will Walden, Johnson’s right-hand man when he was mayor of London.
Walden hopes Johnson will make a lot of cash by giving speeches and writing articles to convince a skeptical public that his brief stay in Downing Street was a success. . He said keeping the narrative of a possible comeback alive would be part of an effort to paint his expulsion as unjust.
“But I think he knows the comeback will never happen,” added Walden. I think going back to him would be a pretty weird experience.”
Former Conservative minister David Davis, who has known Johnson for some time, said the chances of Johnson returning to office were “very close to zero. There are many handicaps and hurdles that make this an interesting story.” But that’s not a likely prediction.”
Mr. Davis raised the hurdle. Johnson’s shares are too low when there are too many Conservative MPs. He faces an investigation into whether he lied to the House of Commons. He probably doesn’t want to work for the opposition, but if the Tories win the next election, he won’t be needed for the time being. His reputation could be damaged during upcoming public investigations into the COVID-19 pandemic. And he could lose the marginal Uxbridge seat in future elections.
With just a 5,000-majority majority in his West London constituency, Johnson is certainly in danger of being dropped from parliament in the next elections. If he tries to secure a safer seat ahead of 2024, it will be seen as a clear signal that he dreams of returning to Downing Street.
always keep guessing
Johnson, of course, is no stranger to keeping speculators guessing. His eventual rise to Downing Street followed his decade of fevered speculation about his motives, with his every move scrutinized through the prism of his ambitions for power.
He became a master of the spotlight. His team of mayors in London organized the event and woke up that morning to controversy over a controversial newspaper column he had written, often criticizing the Conservative government of Westminster. Aides looked impatiently at the journalists lined up to ask questions about the latest commotion, not the topic of choice.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s colorful attempts at evasiveness when asked about his political ambitions seemed designed to spark speculation rather than shut it down. He claimed that he was more likely to be “reborn as an olive” or “beheaded with a Frisbee” than he was remembered. The journalist noted that neither was outright denial.
The next few months and years are likely to return to a similar pattern, with Johnson likely to maintain a good enough profile, be sarcastic enough about his successor, and continue to tongue-tied about a possible comeback. .
His biographer Sonia Purnell said he “would be undermined”. He sends barbs from his sidelines. he mocks He will come up with insults that catch his eye.
One person who knows what it’s like to be a victim of that weakening is Craig Oliver, former Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director.
According to Oliver, Cameron’s government has made it clear that when Mr Johnson stopped by the annual Conservative party conference in the early 2010s to give his annual address, a “circus” of journalists and activists was hanging, Mr Johnson was 24. Forced to accept the attention of the hour… in his every word.
“It was clear that the Conservatives had to do with Boris,” said Oliver.
There will be plenty of Tories in Birmingham this week hoping to rekindle the romance.