Boris Johnson is building support in the Tory leadership race with the backing of Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has ruled himself out of the contest.
Wallace, who is popular with Tory members, said he would “lean to” support Johnson.
“I think he will still have questions to answer on this subject. [Partygate] investigation,” Wallace said, but added, “He got a warrant and I think that’s an important thing for all of us to keep in mind.
The former Prime Minister, who is returning from his vacation in the Caribbean, is testing the waters Friday with his supporters to try to reach the threshold of 100 deputies required. There are about 40 publicly declared supporters or sympathizers of Johnson and his allies believe he is more than halfway there. Rishi Sunak, the other favorite, is believed to have even more supporters for the Tory MP, with 57 declared, but Tory members will ultimately decide between the final nominees.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, Simon Clarke, the leveling secretary and Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, are among Johnson’s most prominent reported backers, while Sunak has the backing of Mel Stride, the chairman of the Treasury committee, and Steve Barclay, Johnson’s former chief of staff. Penny Mordaunt, another former leadership contestant, is also considering running again.
Although MPs support Johnson, he still faces a Privileges Committee investigation into his conduct for allegedly lying to the House of Commons over the Partygate scandal, and some Tory MPs are likely to refuse to serve under him.
Jesse Norman, Tory MP and Foreign Secretary, warned that a return to Johnson would be a disaster.
“There are several very good potential candidates for the position of Conservative leader. But choosing Boris now would be – and I say this knowingly – an absolutely catastrophic decision,” he said.
George Eustice, the former environment secretary who was loyal to Johnson to the end, also questioned the former prime minister’s ability to make a comeback and backed Rishi Sunak.
“The big question is whether it is possible, just two months later, for him to come back and truly lead and rekindle the confidence of the two-thirds of Tory MPs who were prepared to vote against him just two months ago. ?” he told Times Radio. “I mean, half of his own ministers left his government on the last day, because they all said they had lost faith in him, and I really don’t see how it’s possible he’ll come back. “
The idea that Johnson could return to No 10 was starting to take hold of the Tory MPs who ousted him.
A senior backbencher Tory said: ‘It looks to me like he’ll get all 100 nominations. And with the members, I think it would be Boris. I really do. What has been instructive is the amount of emails I have received from my locals, not all of them party members, admittedly, saying to bring Boris back.
“There was a lot of anger over the way it was deposed. So if it’s up to the members, I think he’s back in number 10.”