Defiant Boris warns Tory rebels he will seek a third term as Prime Minister and vows to lead his party into the mid 2030s
- He insisted to reporters in Kigali that questions of his leadership were ‘settled’
- Pledged he would not undergo any ‘psychological transformation’ in order to win
- PM’s pledge to carry on will infuriate MPs scheming to remove him from office
Boris Johnson last night goaded his Tory critics by vowing to seek a third term as Prime Minister and lead his party into the mid-2030s.
As plotting by Ministers, MPs and party donors intensified in the wake of the PM’s drubbing in two by-elections on Thursday, Mr Johnson said he was ‘thinking actively’ about a third term in office – potentially taking him past Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in Downing Street.
His defiance came as one of the candidates to succeed him told The Mail on Sunday that they expected the PM to face a challenge ‘within weeks or even days’.
Mr Johnson insisted to reporters at a Commonwealth summit in Kigali, Rwanda, that questions of his leadership were ‘settled’ after he won a vote of confidence earlier this month, and pledged he would not undergo any ‘psychological transformation’ in order to win over unsupportive MPs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson arrive for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Dinner, hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, at the Marriott Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda
Mr Johnson’s remarks came as:
- Rebel MPs stepped up the efforts, revealed in last week’s MoS, to flood the backbench 1922 executive committee with allies and then force another confidence vote;
- A Cabinet minister warned that they and their colleagues were likely to move against Mr Johnson if the Commons Privileges Committee concluded that he had misled Parliament over breaches of lockdown rules in No 10;
- Supporters of the PM accused Oliver Dowden, who resigned as Party Chairman in the wake of Thursday’s results, of being part of a plot by former Prime Minister David Cameron to destabilise Mr Johnson. Mr Dowden and Mr Cameron were spotted together last month at 5 Hertford Street, a private members’ club long associated with Tory plotting;
- Mr Johnson planned a series of Chequers ‘barbecues and drinks’ for MPs to shore up support;
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer faced his own leadership struggles as his split with his deputy leader Angela Rayner widened over her support for striking train drivers.
Sir Keir could also find himself being hit with a fine by Durham police for his ‘Beergate’ gathering in late April 2021 which he has said would lead to his resignation: The Mail on Sunday has established through a Freedom of Information request that, contrary to earlier claims, the force does issue retrospective fines – and for smaller gatherings than the one attended by the Labour leader.
The Prime Minister’s pledge to carry on into the next decade will infuriate those MPs scheming to remove him from office after he lost both Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton to Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively.
If the next General Election is held, as expected, in 2024, Mr Johnson would be seeking a third term in 2028 or 2029, taking him theoretically to 2034.
In reality, most Tory MPs are wondering whether he can remain in power until the Commons summer recess at the end of July.
One of the candidates considering a run for leader if Mr Johnson is toppled told this newspaper that a contest was likely to come soon. ‘We are talking weeks or even days, not months,’ the rival said. ‘Olive’s going has turned it.’
‘Olive’ is Westminster shorthand for Oliver Dowden.
The sighting of Mr Cameron and Mr Dowden, his former deputy chief of staff, at 5 Hertford Street has fuelled concerns in No 10 that a Cameroon clique is plotting against the Prime Minister.
Supporters of the PM accused Oliver Dowden, who resigned as Party Chairman in the wake of Thursday’s results, of being part of a plot by former Prime Minister David Cameron to destabilise Mr Johnson
The clique is thought to include former Chancellor George Osborne and allies of Mr Cameron’s successor in Downing Street, Theresa May.
The £2,850-a-year club in London’s Mayfair is a favourite with politicians, Tory donors and royals, although the significance of the meeting is played down by a source close to Mr Cameron, who describes it as one of regular ‘routine’ meetings between the pair.
‘He [Cameron] had absolutely no prior knowledge of, or involvement in, Oliver Dowden’s resignation,’ says the source.
One Cabinet Minister has told colleagues that the ‘tipping point’ for Mr Johnson would come if the Commons Privileges Committee concludes that the Prime Minister misled MPs when he told the Commons that no Covid rules had been breached in No 10. ‘That would be of a different order, no PM can survive that,’ the Minister – and potential successor – said.
The committee is expected to report by the autumn.
Mr Dowden and Mr Cameron were spotted together last month at 5 Hertford Street, a private members’ club long associated with Tory plotting
The £2,850-a-year club in London’s Mayfair is a favourite with politicians, Tory donors and royals, although the significance of the meeting is played down by a source close to Mr Cameron
MPs and donors are starting to coalesce in earnest behind Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Foreign Affairs Commitee Chairman Tom Tugendhat.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and his predecessor Jeremy Hunt are also expected to run.
Asked yesterday if he would like to serve a full second term, the PM said: ‘At the moment, I am thinking actively about the third and what could happen then. But I will review that when I get to it.’
He then clarified this would mean remaining in his job until the mid-2030s to enable him to complete his levelling-up agenda.
‘We’ve embarked on a massive project to change the constitution of the country, the way we run our legal system, the way we manage our borders, our economy,’ said Mr Johnson.
‘We also, at the same time, are embarked on a colossal project to unite and level up. And I happen to believe in that incredibly strongly.
‘It won’t be easily accomplished. And people will say it hasn’t worked, it’s not working yet, people in this constituency aren’t feeling the benefits. It’s going to take time. And I want to keep driving it forward.’
Asked if he thought the question of whether he should continue as PM was settled, he said: ‘Yes.’
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