A comeback by Boris Johnson cannot be completely ruled out, his close ally Nadine Dorries said today.
The former Cabinet minister said the former PM was ‘not thinking about’ a comeback and the prospect was ‘highly, extremely unlikely’.
But she made clear that did not mean it was impossible – as she warned Liz Truss against ditching policies from the 2019 Tory manifesto.
The intervention by Ms Dorries came as Tory MPs plot to parachute Mr Johnson back into Downing Street if Labour maintains its huge lead in the opinion polls.
The ex-premier is said to be a ‘man transformed’ now that he is free of the pressures of No 10, and has even taken up golf.
But backbenchers terrified of a Conservative wipeout in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ are discussing ripping up party rules to return him to No 10 in the spring.
Another dire poll today put Labour 21 points ahead, enough for a huge majority at an election.
A comeback by Boris Johnson (pictured delivering his final speech in Downing Street) cannot be completely ruled out, his close ally Nadine Dorries said today
Ms Dorries said the former PM was ‘not thinking about’ a comeback and the prospect was ‘highly, extremely unlikely’ – but not impossible
Ms Dorries, who was one of Ms Truss’s main backers before swiping at the dramatic policy shifts on areas such as tax and privatisation of Channel 4, said she needed to return to the programme that delivered the 2019 landslide.
‘I believe that it’s not so much changing course as perhaps nuancing the policies and the mandate that she’s taking forward in a slightly different way,’ BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.
‘The fact is that just after a leadership election, and at the start of a new administration, what we don’t need is a disrupter, what we need is a unifier. And I think probably that the new Prime Minister has realised that over the last few weeks.’
Pressed on what should happen if Ms Truss does not go back to the 2019 manifesto, she said: ‘The simple principle of our democracy and our unwritten constitution is that if you’re going to have a completely fresh mandate, a completely fresh set of policy ideas and a new prime minister, it would be right to go to the country.
‘Liz doesn’t need to do that. And I really hope she won’t do that when we’re 30 points behind in the polls.’
However, Ms Dorries had a stern message for rebels such as former colleague Michael Gove who have been stoking rebellion.
‘I think those people who are doing that need to stop,’ she said.
Ms Truss has been struggling to contain Tory infighting over tax rates and benefits
‘We can’t have a leadership election, put a new leader in place and immediately start discussing about how we remove that leader.
‘They need to stop, they need to get behind her and they need to support her.
‘How they do that is by engaging both with Number 10, and Number 10 need to start engaging with the parliamentary party. I don’t believe that Liz is politically suicidal.’
Grilled repeatedly on whether Mr Johnson could return as prime minister, Ms Dorries said: ‘I have been in politics a long time, I don’t rule anything out. But I would say it is highly, extremely unlikely.’
Mr Johnson’s political hero Winston Churchill also spent his ‘wilderness years’ – between losing his Cabinet position in 1929 and joining the War Cabinet ten years later – painting, writing and occasionally playing golf.
And one friend told the Mail on Sunday: ‘The difference in him is palpable. He is painting, reading, writing, playing tennis and even having a try at golf. He looks better – getting plenty of fresh air – and is back to his old self.’