More than 10,000 Tory members sign petition demanding Boris Johnson joins leadership race

Boris Johnson is set to be replaced as prime minister by either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss on September 6. Credit: Number 10

More than ten thousand Conservative members have signed a petition demanding Boris Johnson is added to Tory leadership race ballot paper, as calls grow for him to remain prime minister.

The prime minister is set to be replaced by either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss on September 6 after a winner announcement the previous day, but one Tory behind the petition says it would be "suicidal" for the party if Mr Johnson were to leave Downing Street.

David Campbell Bannerman - a former Tory MEP, who set up the petition alongside Conservative peer Lord Cruddas - said replacing the PM would be "guaranteeing a Labour victory" at the next election.

Mr Johnson announced he would step down after several of his most senior ministers, including Mr Sunak, quit in protest at his leadership and demanded his resignation.

But the petition, on, which requires a party membership number from signatories, says the people who ousted him may have had "vested interest reasons" to do so and "the membership are very upset about what has happened to our elected leader".

It adds: "I demand Boris Johnson is added to the ballot as an option for the members to vote upon in the forthcoming election."

But ballot papers with Mr Sunak and Ms Truss's name on are set to be delivered to members in a week's time, and with the race already in its final stage, it is highly unlikely the party would allow Mr Johnson's to be added.

Mr Johnson's official spokesman said the PM had already "given his farewell address to Parliament" when asked about reports he could stay in the role.

"Beyond that," he added, "obviously I can't comment on what the prime minister may choose to do once he ceases to be prime minister, that wouldn't be one for me."

It appears there are hopes, however, that Mr Johnson could return as prime minister in the future even after leaving office.

An article on the petition's website points out previous prime ministers have been able to snatch back the keys to Number 10 after leaving.

It says both Labour's Harold Wilson and Winston Churchill served second terms after being removed and refers to a comment made by Mr Johnson in his final PMQs, which many believe indicates a desire to return.

"Hasta la vista," which translates to 'see you later' in Spanish, was his final remark in the Commons last Wednesday, and earlier at Prime Minister's Questions he said his mission in government was "accomplished for now".

Asked about the comments at the time, his press secretary did not explicitly deny he may be planning a return to Downing Street, as she replied: "That was his way of saying farewell to his colleagues."

Mr Johnson is expected to remain an MP after leaving Downing Street, however the choice could be taken away from him if he's suspended by the Commons Privileges Committee for misleading MPs with his Partygate denials.

The committee is investigating him for contempt of Parliament, with critics insisting his denials of Covid rule-breaking were proven to be untrue when police fined him and dozens of government staff members for lockdown breaches.

Mr Johnson has insisted he was always honest to Parliament to the best of his knowledge and always believed the rules had been adhered to by himself and others in Downing Street.

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But if the committee finds he did commit contempt by misleading Parliament, it could suspend him.

If he is suspended for ten days or more it would trigger a recall petition, which would be followed with a by-election if at least 10% of his constituents sign it.

Mr Johnson would be allowed to fight the by-election but his 52.6% majority in Uxbridge would not be impossible for rivals to overturn, however it would require a swing of more than 7,210 votes.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss are facing their first televised head-to-head debate on the BBC on Monday.

Foreign Secretary Truss, who remained loyal to the current prime minister as dozens of other ministers walked out on him, is favourite to replace him.