Sir Roger Gale, who has been a serving Tory MP for 39 years, has slammed the idea of Boris Johnson making a Churchillian comeback as “unthinkable”. As the Uxbridge MP flies back from his holiday in the Dominican Republic, roughly 60 MPs have pledged their support for Mr Johnson, but senior figures, including Sir Roger, have threatened to quit if he were to be re-elected. While Mr Johnson is lagging behind Mr Sunak in the tally of MP supporters, it looks possible that he could still reach the threshold of 100 MPs needed to officially enter the leadership race come next Monday at 2pm.
Sir Roger said: “Boris Johnson is utterly divisive. He will not unite the party. There is going to a hearing of the Parliamentary Privileges Committee [into Boris Johnson] starting in November for the next couple of weeks.
“My colleagues, particularly my younger colleagues, need to ask themselves if they seriously want that distraction on the front pages of all of the national newspapers every day for several weeks.
“What damage is that going to do to the unity of the party? It is unthinkable.”
The prospect of the return of Mr Johnson to Government is a polarising issue for many in the Conservative Party, which is deeply divided after seeing off four prime ministers in six years.
For some Conservatives, Mr Johnson is a vote winner, able to appeal across the country not only with his celebrity but also with his brand of energetic optimism.
For others, Mr Johnson is a toxic figure and the question is whether he can convince the dozens who abandoned him that he is now the person to unite the party and turn around its flagging fortunes.
If Mr Johnson can secure the required number of nominations, he is likely to go head-to-head with Rishi Sunak, who quit as his Chancellor in July.
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Former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said reinstating Boris Johnson as prime minister would be the “worst example” of putting the Tory party’s interest ahead of the public interest.
He said: “What would make it utterly indefensible is that the, if not the only, reason, or certainly the main reason, why some MPs and party activists are encouraging this is that Boris Johnson would have a better chance than other leaders at winning the next general election.
“I’ve never heard a worst example of putting the party’s perceived interest, because it might not even be true, but putting the party’s political interests before the public interest. And I will happily explain why, in my judgment, the public interest could not remotely be served by the return of Boris Johnson.
“Given that the vast majority of the public, including many Conservatives, are struggling with a cost-of-living increases that we’re all seeing and the problems of the economy, the prime minister must be somebody who’s economically coherent, who understands the economy, who has shown that he does understand it, and that he will be able to work closely with the chancellor in restoring our economic strength.
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