Boris Johnson dodges question on potential political comeback

Obfuscation will add to suspicions the departing UK prime minister is considering a return similar to Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Henbury Farm in north Dorset, where he failed to rule out a comeback. Getty Images
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Departing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday failed to deny he is plotting a political comeback.

On a visit to a broadband provider in Wiltshire, he maintained the public would be more interested in hearing about his great broadband revolution than his political manoeuvrings.

“You can disagree with this if you'd like but I think, on the whole, [the people in] this country are more interested in their gigabit broadband than they are in the fate of this or that politician,” he told the BBC.

“And my job … which I'm very proud to have done in the last few years, is to deliver what I said I was going to do. I said we would try to get up to 85 per cent gigabit broadband. We've gone from 7 per cent when I started to 70 per cent in three years, in spite of Covid. That's not half bad, in my view.”

Mr Johnson's pointed refusal to answer the question will only fan the flames stoked earlier in the day by his one-time Tory leadership rival, Rory Stewart, who suggested the prime minister could try to force his way back into office.

Mr Stewart likened Mr Johnson to former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi and ex-US president Donald Trump, who are plotting comebacks.

The former international development minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “I'm afraid he has an extraordinary ego and he believes that he was badly treated.

“He doesn't see the reality which is that he was a terrible prime minister and that he lost his job because of deep flaws of character.

“And yes I fear we're going to end up with a second Berlusconi or a second Trump trying to rock back in again.”

Mr Johnson was ousted by his own MPs after a series of scandals and is set to be replaced at No 10 by Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak next week.

Mr Stewart also told The Guardian: “I think he is dangerous and there are people out there who want him to come back.

“He's going to be hovering around, hoping for a populist return.”

Mr Johnson could reportedly take another shot at the leadership if his successor, widely expected to be Ms Truss, is brought down by the cost-of-living crisis.

One obstacle could be the Commons Privileges Committee inquiry into whether Mr Johnson lied to MPs over Downing Street lockdown parties, but some of his allies have already denounced the probe as a “witch hunt”.

Mr Stewart, a long-time critic of Mr Johnson, quit the Conservative Party in 2019 after losing the whip for voting to block a no-deal Brexit.

He has been appointed president of the GiveDirectly international charity.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 10:00 PM