LONDON (HPD) — Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson landed in London on Saturday morning amid rumors he will seek to regain his old post.
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.
Johnson has not officially said whether he will run, but some allies in his party have loudly called for him to return. Conservative lawmakers who wish to enter the internal race must secure the backing of 100 of their colleagues before 2pm on Monday.
Johnson’s eventual return to power would mean a stunning comeback for a divisive figure, who was forced out of office by a spate of ethics scandals. Opponents say giving it another chance would only lead to more controversy and disappointment.
The uncertainty over British leadership comes at a time of weak economic growth and when millions of people are struggling due to rising borrowing costs and rising prices for food, 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 45 turbulent days, admitting she was unable to deliver on her economic package based on tax cuts, which she was forced to abandon after it caused turmoil in financial markets.
The Conservative Party has ordered a lightning-fast contest that is expected to wrap up nominations on Monday and install a new prime minister, the third this year, within a week.
House of Commons Speaker Penny Mordaunt was the first candidate to publicly announce that she would run to replace Truss. Mordaunt tweeted that she represents a “new beginning.”
Mordaunt, an outspoken 49-year-old Royal Army reservist who briefly served as defense secretary in 2019, is the bookmakers’ third favorite. Outside of conservative circles, she is perhaps best known for having participated in the reality television show “Splash!”, On Diving.
Leading the pack in support from lawmakers, though he has not run publicly, is former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak, who previously came in second to Truss.
Sunak, 42, had repeatedly warned Conservatives that Truss’s tax cut plans would be disastrous, as they ultimately were. Supporters of Sunak, a former hedge fund manager, see him as having a steady hand in managing a troubled economy.
Popular Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who had been talked about as a possible contender, was ruled out on Friday.
The wild card is Johnson, who was forced out of office in July and still faces an inquiry into whether he lied to Parliament while still prime minister, which could lead to his suspension as lawmaker.
Johnson, 58, is still held in high esteem by some Conservatives, who see him as a vote-winner with an unusual everyman touch that led the party to a major electoral victory in 2019. He is more popular with among the party’s rank and file than among lawmakers, and he is despised by some for the chaos and scandals that marred his term.
Johnson managed to shake off flaws that would have brought many politicians down. He survived even after he was fined by police for attending a series of illegal parties in government buildings while Britain was under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, until he finally resigned after racking up many scandals.
Former Conservative leader Michael Howard implored the party not to return to the “psychodrama” of the Johnson era.
“He’s had his chance and it hasn’t worked out,” Howard said. Some Conservative lawmakers have even threatened to leave the party if Johnson becomes leader again.