Boris Johnson could make a comeback far sooner than he expected, with some party members overjoyed, and others alarmed, ITV News' Anushka Asthana reports
Boris Johnson has arrived back in the UK after declaring to allies he is “up for" entering the Tory leadership race and attempting an extraordinary comeback as prime minister.
The former PM has been on holiday in the Dominican Republic but flew back to the UK after Liz Truss' resignation on Thursday.
The flight, which was being tracked by around 7,000 users of the FlightRadar24 website, landed 47 minutes behind schedule.
Trade minister Sir James Duddridge said he learnt the news after chatting with "the boss", who has been holidaying in the Caribbean.
“He’s going to fly back. He said, 'I’m flying back, Dudders, we are going to do this. I’m up for it’," the MP for Rochford and Southend East said.
According to reports, Mr Johnson was spotted on an overnight plane from the Dominican Republic to the UK.
Mr Duddridge said Mr Johnson will challenge other Tory leadership candidates to replace Liz Truss, who announced her resignation on Thursday.
She spent just 44 days in office before declaring her departure, which will make her the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.
Now the party must find a candidate who is able to unite a deeply divided party and lead the country through a turbulent economic period if it has any hope of winning the next general election.
Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt was the first MP to declare a leadership bid, promising to "unite the country" and deliver the Tory party's pledges.
Ms Mordaunt has already held talks with Jeremy Hunt and assured him he can stay on as chancellor if she becomes prime minister, it is understood.
Within the hour of Ms Mordaunt's announcement, several Tory MPs declared their support, including MP for Penrith and the Border Neil Hudson, who said she has the "leadership attributes, experience, empathy and compassion to unite our country".
Mr Johnson throwing his hat into the ring means he is likely to face a bitter showdown with Rishi Sunak, who is blamed by the former PM's supporters for bringing him down.
There have been reports that some MPs could resign the whip and sit as independents rather than serve under Mr Johnson.
But his supporters argue that he alone of the potential candidates to be the new prime minister has won a general election and has a mandate from the British public.
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COP26 president Alok Sharma, defence secretary Ben Wallace and business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg are among Mr Johnson's backers for this reason.
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has also pledged his support due to Mr Johnson's previous electoral mandate.
He told ITV News: "Not everybody supports him within the Conservative Party, but there is no candidate who is supported by everybody.
"If that were the case, we wouldn't be in the position we are currently in."
But former Tory leader William Hague told Times Radio that bringing Mr Johnson back is the worst idea he's ever heard of in his 46 years as a Conservative Party member.
He added that it would lead to a "death spiral" for the party, at a time when its reputation is already on the rocks.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak already appears to have enough nominations to be a serious contender in the Conservative Party leadership election, Dominic Raab has said.
Mr Raab, who was deputy prime minister in Boris Johnson’s government, told BBC Breakfast: “I am very confident he will stand and he has already through the public declarations that have been tallied up broken through the 100 threshold for nominations.”
He added: “I think the critical issue here is going to be the economy.
“Rishi had the right plan in the summer and I think it is the right plan now.
“I think he is the best placed candidate to provide some stability, to provide confidence for the millions of workers and businesses up and down the country – but I also think he is the right candidate to bring the party together with a government of all of the talents to just relentlessly deliver for the British people whether it is on the cost of living, crime, schools or NHS.”
'They just seem like amateurs, it's becoming a joke', Bromsgrove residents show little faith in Tory party hopefuls, ITV News' Ben Chapman reports.
Former veterans minister Johnny Mercer told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I love Boris to bits and he’s got amazing qualities for this country but it is now time for serious, competent, straightforward and values-based governance."
Asked about the former PM's history with Mr Sunak, he said: “I don’t accept he knifed Boris Johnson.”
Former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid also threw his weight behind Mr Sunak, tweeting: "Our country desperately needs economic stability, hard-headed decision making and strong leadership.
"It is abundantly clear that Rishi Sunak has what it takes to match the challenges we face - he is the right person to lead our party and take the country forward.
"I also believe it is in the national interest to have a strong Conservative Party. The only way for our party to reclaim our values and recover our reputation for stewardship is to move on from mistakes of the past and come together to focus on the future."
According to Tory MP Dame Maria Miller, Boris Johnson must be thinking about whether it is “appropriate” he should enter the leadership contest as he still faces a Privilege Committee investigation on ‘partygate’.
She told BBC Breakfast that “I certainly think that Boris Johnson would be thinking very long and hard as to whether it would be appropriate to put himself forward to lead our country at a time where … he is still subject to a very serious Privileges Committee investigation which could ultimately lead to him having to resign as minister.
“I am sure he, who has put our country first in his life even when he was sick and in hospital during the pandemic would not want to jeopardise the stability of our country, again that is why I am supporting Penny Mordaunt because I think she brings that stability.
“She can reach out to people who really need to have knowledge that they have got somebody in 10 Downing Street who really understands the struggles or ordinary people in this country.”
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