Despite being ousted by his Party three months ago, Mr Johnson has emerged as a front-runner to become the next Prime Minister and has been tipped to announce his candidacy over the weekend. Mr Johnson’s allies claim he is “hungry” to return for a second time to complete “unfinished business”.
Trade minister Sir James Duddridge claimed he had spoken to Mr Johnson on Friday night, saying: “I’ve been in contact with the boss via WhatsApp. He’s going to fly back. He said, ‘I’m flying back, Dudders, we are going to do this. I’m up for it’.”
He added: “Boris is coming and he has the momentum and support. He is the only election winner we have that has a proven track record in London, on Brexit and in gaining the mandate we have now.”
Former press secretary to Mr Johnson, Will Walden, told Sky News: “I’ve spoken to someone that’s spoken to him and he’s on the way back. And clearly he’s taking soundings.”
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To secure candidacy, Mr Johnson needs the backing of 100 Tory MPs by 2pm on Monday, October 24.
One Cabinet minister told Sky News that this was more than achievable, saying: “I’d expect him to get to 100. Even people who resigned from his Government were on the terrace yesterday telling colleagues they would now back him and members definitely will.”
Meanwhile, ally and former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “He is a known winner and that is certainly who I’m putting my name against because I want us to win the general election. Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive.”
Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith told BBC Newsnight that Mr Johnson was “probably waiting to see whether he felt he’d got the support” before officially declaring his campaign, adding “I’d say he’s certainly up for it.”
On Friday evening, Mr Johnson was in second place with the public backing of 52 MPs. Supporters include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and cabinet ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg, Anne-Marie Trevelyan Simon Clarke and Alok Sharma.
Some think Mr Johnson could have more than 140 nominations by Monday afternoon. Political activist Tim Montgomerie told the Independent: “I’m now hearing from two or three people I really respect – who are usually very good at the numbers – that he is not only likely to pass the 100 MPs threshold but could get close to 140.”
Mr Johnson is currently placed behind former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has 93 public endorsements. Yet Tobias Ellwood has said he was the 100th backer – meaning Mr Sunak has reached the threshold.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Commons Penny Mordant has 22 supporters and was the first to declare her candidacy. Like Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak has not officially launched his campaigns, but this has not stopped backers from declaring their support.
If three candidates reach the threshold, then Conservative MPs will vote in a ballot to eliminate one contender on the same day. An “indicative” ballot of the final two will then be held with an online vote of party members, declaring the winner on Friday, October 28.
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However, several Tories have been critical of the move, with some threatening to resign and others forcing by-elections. Tory MP for Poole, Sir Robert Syms, said that Mr Johnson running for a second time was “fantasy”.
Meanwhile, Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, said he would resign if Mr Johnson returned.
He told Times Radio: “We need to remember that Mr Johnson is still under investigation by the Privileges Committee for potentially misleading the House. Until that investigation is complete and he is found guilty or cleared, there should be no possibility of him returning to Government.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a general election and said that the potential return of Mr Johnson adds “insult to injury” for voters.
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