Boris Johnson will continue his backing for Ukraine in Russia war by making sure new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak maintains UK’s strong support, friends say
- Boris Johnson plans to keep up the pressure on Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion
- He will keep his promise to President Zelensky of flying the flag for Ukraine
- Allies of the former PM said he would hold Sunak’s ‘feet to the fire’ on the issue
- They also said his pulling out of the PM race wasn’t the end of his political career
Boris Johnson is set to keep his promise to his friend Volodymyr Zelensky and keep flying the flag for Ukraine following his aborted Downing Street bid.
After leading the international response to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion, Mr Johnson plans to keep up the pressure on the Russian leader.
Allies of the former PM yesterday promised that he would hold Rishi Sunak’s ‘feet to the fire’ over Ukraine to make sure the UK’s commitment does not slip.
He is also said to be planning visits to Washington to ensure there is no back-sliding from US President Joe Biden or other Western nations.
And Mr Johnson’s allies say his decision to pull out of the Tory leadership race on Sunday does not mean his career in frontline politics is over. He could become a thorn in the side of his former chancellor from the backbenches thanks to a determination to make sure his flagship levelling-up agenda remains on course.
Boris Johnson is set to keep his promise to his friend Volodymyr Zelensky and keep flying the flag for Ukraine following his aborted Downing Street bid
Interventions could include critical speeches in the Commons chamber and visits to ‘Red Wall’ seats, long held by Labour, in the North and Midlands that he snatched in the 2019 election.
‘He’s interested in maintaining his legacy on levelling up and protecting the 2019 feeling that something unique was happening when we were winning in places that we have never won before,’ one ally said.
It may force Mr Sunak to offer Mr Johnson a frontline role to neutralise any threat. The ally also didn’t rule out a return to No 10, saying: ‘He still thinks the job’s not done.’
However, one of his first priorities will be to clear his name in the Partygate investigation being conducted by the privileges committee. It is considering whether Mr Johnson deliberately misled the Commons over Downing Street parties when Covid-19 lockdown measures were in place and is due to start hearing evidence, including from Mr Johnson, within weeks.
It could prove hugely embarrassing for the ex-PM and if he is found to have deliberately misled Parliament – which he denies – he could be suspended as an MP. As that would fall under the Recall of MPs Act, it could even trigger a by-election and see Mr Johnson ousted from his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat – potentially ending his political career.
Yesterday it was confirmed by the backbench 1922 Committee that he had reached the threshold of support from 100 MPs that was needed to reach the final ballot for a showdown with Mr Sunak.
Some of his supporters were angered by his decision to pull out, saying they felt ‘betrayed’ after publicly backing him.
But Nadine Dorries, a former culture secretary and one of his staunchest allies, said he ‘did the right thing’, insisting: ‘That doesn’t mean it’s the end of Boris Johnson.’
In his statement on Sunday night, Mr Johnson hinted he could still lead the Tories into a general election, saying he still has ‘much to offer’ but that ‘this is simply not the right time’.
Will Walden, who was Mr Johnson’s director of communications when he was mayor of London, said he had further destabilised the Conservative Party and predicted ‘he won’t be back’.
However, one MP who backed Mr Johnson said: ‘I’d never count him out of making a comeback. You never know with him.’
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