In light of additional Tory scheming today, Boris Johnson seems to downplay his promise to serve as prime minister until the middle of the 2030s.
The prime minister made it plain that he plans to remain in office for another 10 years despite the most recent by-election catastrophes and terrible polling yesterday, trolling his detractors.
In order to surpass Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in office, Mr. Johnson said he was “actively considering” about running for a third term.
However, the premier appeared to take a much gentler tone when he landed in Germany for a G7 meeting after the remarks at the Commonwealth conference in Rwanda drew more criticism from backbenchers.
When journalists questioned Mr. Johnson on if he was being “delusional” about his prospects of surviving, he responded, “What I’m saying is that this is a government that is getting on with delivering for the people of this country and we’ve got a vast amount to do.”
We need to help people get through the current global inflationary pressures, the post-Covid, Ukraine-exacerbated inflationary pressures, and the energy price spikes that we are currently seeing.
The expense of government must be reduced, but we also have a tremendous agenda of reform and improvement, a plan for a better economy. To do this, we must overhaul our energy and housing markets, the way our transportation systems operate, and our public sector.
‘We’ve got to make sure we grow our economy by reducing the burden of taxation on business and on families and have better regulation.’
The attacks kept coming today, with the resignation of party chair Oliver Dowden on Friday having sent the temperature soaring.
Backbencher Andrew Bridge, a regular critic, said Mr Johnson had ‘lost the plot completely’ and even compared him to Vladimir Putin.
‘What’s the difference between Boris Johnson and Putin? They both believe they have the divine right to rule forever. I thought we lived in a democracy,’ he said.
Labour insiders claimed to the Sunday Times that half-a-dozen Tory MPs are considering defecting.
One of the candidates to succeed Mr Johnson told The Mail on Sunday that they expected the PM to face a challenge ‘within weeks or even days’ following the disastrous results in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton.
More no-confidence letters are also thought to have been sent to the backbench 1922 committee, even though Mr Johnson fended off a previous challenge earlier this month and should in theory be safe for a year.
The leader of the One Nation caucus of Conservative MPs, Damian Green, urged the Cabinet to intervene, warning that the Government “has to adjust both its manner and content.”
David Davis, a former minister, reacted angrily to the PM’s assertion that the only “substantive” argument for a change of course he had heard from his detractors was for the UK to rejoin the EU single market, saying this is “plainly not true of myself, or many others.”
This morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis used the media to discredit the PM’s challenges.
He asserted that it must be a positive thing for Mr. Johnson to want to consider the “long term” when it comes to his leadership.
He spoke to Sophy Ridge of Sky. “What I see there is somebody,” the Prime Minister said on the Sunday show, “and this is what I see when I work with the Prime Minister every day. Someone who has the desire and excitement for what we want to do for our nation.
‘And I think seeing that kind of zest, and let’s be frank, somebody who is enjoying doing the job and wants and has got plans for the country that he wants to deliver, having that ability to look forward, I think is a good thing.
‘We get often get criticised in politics when we look short term, at just the next day, the next election, the next vote.
‘Actually we’ve got somebody as Prime Minister who wants to be looking long term at how we structurally improve our country for generations to come. That has got to be a good thing.’
Mr Johnson insisted the ‘endless churn’ of allegations was ‘driving people nuts’, as he pushed on with his Rwanda trip despite suggestions further ministerial resignations could follow.
He told reporters in Kigali 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.
Asked if he would lead his party into the next election, he said: ‘Will I win? Yes.’
In a buoyant mood, the PM added: ‘At the moment I’m actively thinking about the third term and what could happen then, but I will review that when I get to it.’
Labour, meanwhile, challenged the Tories to call an early election, with leader Sir Keir Starmer telling Mr Johnson: ‘Bring it on.’
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.
Mr Dowden resigned as Tory party co-chairman saying he was ‘distressed and disappointed by recent events’ and telling the Prime Minister that ‘someone must take responsibility’. He pointed voiced ongoing loyalty to the party – but not Mr Johnson personally.
A sighting of Mr Cameron and Mr Dowden, his former deputy chief of stafftogether has fuelled concerns in No 10 that a Cameroon clique is plotting against the PM.
The clique is thought to include former Chancellor George Osborne and allies of Mr Cameron’s successor in Downing Street, Theresa May.
However. he significance of the meeting has been 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.
Additionally anticipated candidates are chancellor Rishi Sunak, foreign minister Liz Truss, health secretary Sajid Javid, and his predecessor Jeremy Hunt.
When asked yesterday if he wanted to serve out the entirety of his second term, the prime minister responded, “At the moment, I am actively thinking about the third and what may happen afterwards. But when I get to it, I’ll review it.
Then he added that in order to fulfill his leveling-up plan, he would have to stay in his position through the middle of the 2030s.
‘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.’
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.