Emily Maitlis has been recorded using expletives after she was told that Boris Johnson would be standing in the upcoming Tory leadership contest. As she was discussing the resignation of Liz Truss on a NewsAgents podcast, she was told that journalist Steven Swinford had reported that the former prime minister would be running again, to which she said, “Ok, s**t.” The News Agents co-host Jon Sopel interrupted Ms Maitlis as she discussed the prospect of a new Tory leadership contest.
Mr Sopel said: “Hang on, Maitlis, can I interrupt you?
“Steven Winford is reporting that Boris Johnson is standing.”
She said: “Ok, s**t. So, when I was talking to Charles Walker just before about the people conclave idea, he said they would have Boris Johnson at the end of the phone.
“In the people conclave analogy, I don’t know if that makes him God or how far you want to take the metaphor, but clearly Boris Johnson is no longer thinking he’s going to be at the end of the phone but right at the beginning of that phone.
“And he’d like that phone to be in Number 10.”
Her comments come as MPs seem torn over the prospect of a comeback, with some citing the fact that Mr Johnson is still under investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee over claims he lied to Parliament over lockdown parties in Downing Street. At a time when many MPs are saying stability in the Party is paramount, the prospect of Mr Johnson being found guilty of lying, which would see him expelled as an MP, is too great a risk in the eyes of his detractors
Sir David Lidington, who served as a Cabinet Office minister under former prime minister Theresa May, said this morning that Boris Johnson should not be looking to make a political comeback because “he has had his chance” as prime minister and competence is now needed.
Joining a chorus of other MPs against the former PM, Sir David said Mr Johnson’s time in office ended with 60 ministers and parliamentary private secretaries saying “they did not feel they could remain in his government and that he was not fit to lead an effective administration”.
Sir David said: “We do need competence now at a time of great economic challenge for this country. Boris Johnson has always been somebody who has focused on the big picture, not on detail.
“He is not really interested in the detail of governing and nor when he was prime minister did he appoint a couple of ministers with delegated authority on his behalf to get things done, instead we had bunches of aides in Number 10 busy briefing the media and shouting at each other most of the time.”
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Sir David added: “Even on top of the fact that he is still being investigated by Parliament on allegations of deliberately lying to MPs, I think he has had his chance and the Conservative parliamentary party concluded just a few months ago this could not go on and it would not be right for him to continue as prime minister – that, after all, is why he resigned.”
Sir Roger Gale, who has been a serving MP for nearly 40 years, intimated he would resign if Mr Johnson were to return to Downing Street.
He said: “I think that there would be people, indeed like myself, who would find ourselves in the awful position of having to resign the Conservative whip.”
There are, however, a number of MPs backing the former PM for a second premiership, many of whom cite the popularity of Mr Johnson as the indisputable reason for his return.
Peterborough MP Paul Bristow claimed Mr Johnson is the only candidate that could prevent the party from being “completely wiped out” at the next general election, adding that he could “unite all factions of the party”.
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He said: “Well, that was then, this is now. We’re facing a crisis as a party. We could go down and be completely wiped out without Boris Johnson as our prime minister. Boris Johnson has a mandate from the members of the party and from the electorate.
“I’m sure my colleagues will reflect on that when they vote, and we can avoid a general election, we can go out and put this band back together, we can have political heavyweights around that Cabinet table and we can go on and win the next general election. I’m convinced of that.”
Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln and who is on the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, also described Mr Johnson as the party’s “best electoral asset”.
Mr McCartney said there is public support for Mr Johnson to return as “people have been coming up to me for the past week and saying they want Boris to come back”, adding that he “certainly does as well”.
He said: “I did not want him to resign in the first place. I think the Labour Party and some of the media did a credible hatchet job over six months and got rid of our best electoral asset.
“In the marginal seat of Lincoln, I know that my majority, which is the largest it has ever been after 2019, was because Boris Johnson was the prime minister and was the leader of our party that was the most credible person at the time to get the majority.”
Backbenchers have cited the fact that 211 MPs backed Mr Johnson during his last no-confidence vote in June, equivalent to 58.8 percent of the party, as evidence that he enjoys the highest popularity rate among the Conservatives.
Rival Rishi Sunak, in contrast, won the support of just 137 MPs in the Tory leadership contest, having helped orchestrate the downfall of Mr Johnson by resigning alongside the then health secretary Sajid Javid.
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