Boris gearing up for comeback as former PM braced for big role

Grant Shapps backs Rishi Sunak when questioned on Boris Johnson

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Boris Johnson’s allies have said Mr Johnson may be waiting in the wings for a comeback, putting increasing pressure on Rishi Sunak to win over the Conservative Party. One Tory MP told Mr Johnson could stage a comeback if Rishi Sunak’s party takes a significant knock at the local elections in May, saying: “It’s what the voters want.” They said Mr Sunak needs to show clear signs of winning over Tory voters – along with tackling migration – by the middle of the year in order to secure his premiership.

Another MP gave a more urgent deadline, saying that Mr Johnson could have a “good chance” of making a comeback if the current Prime Minister doesn’t action a firm solution to the migration crisis by March at the latest.

Mr Johnson is making an appearance this evening at a Carlton Club dinner, sparking further speculation that the former PM may make a sensational return to frontline politics.

The MP for Uxbridge and X will be unveiling a new portrait of himself at the dinner.

While the event is undertaken by all former Conservative prime ministers, allies of Mr Johnson have said the evening is “an opportunity to show that Boris hasn’t gone away”.

The former Prime Minister is expected to use his speech this evening to highlight his focus on three key issues: Brexit, support for Ukraine and levelling up.

Meanwhile, according to allies, current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been consulting Mr Johnson in recent weeks.

One insider told the Times: “He’s being asked his views. They have spoken a couple of times on the phone, all very friendly.”

Mr Johnson, who led the Tories to their biggest landslide in decades in 2019, left Downing Street in September following a series of scandals including the partygate saga.

But he fuelled rumours of a comeback in his final speech outside No 10 with his reference to Cincinnatus, who was recalled from his farm to save ancient Rome from crisis.

The former PM has begun this parliamentary year in an extremely visible manner, speaking from the House of Commons just nine minutes into its first sitting of the year.

Speaking about Levelling Up, Mr Johnson criticised Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, claiming that during his tenure “housebuilding has gone off a cliff”.

The former Prime Minister said there has been too much focus on “unrealistic targets for social housing in every development”.

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But in spite of some allies’ support for a Boris Johnson comeback, others have dismissed the idea.

A close ally of the former Prime Minister said the only way he would return as leader before the next election was via a “kamikaze attack” on Rishi Sunak.

The MP said: “That would lose us the election. It was a mistake to get rid of him, but having another leader would be very divisive going into an election.

“Boris doesn’t like to fail, so I’m unsure he would even want it. He’s a brilliant political leader, but he’s not a magician.

“If the Tories were facing a 1997-scale defeat, would he really want to go down in history as the leader who took the Tories to one of their greatest victories and then led them to one of the worst [defeats]?”

They added: “I think he’ll leave that honour to Rishi.”

Another ally of Johnson, when asked whether he is likely to return as leader if the party were to lose the next election, said: “I think he’s beyond that career-wise, he’s enjoying the speaking circuit.

“The rational conclusion is he will never become PM again.”

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