Boris Johnson flew back into London on Saturday morning, perhaps hoping his arrival at Gatwick Airport would mark the beginning of a triumphant return to 10 Downing Street.
Johnson, who was ousted as prime minister in July over a series of scandals, arrived in the UK from his Caribbean holiday intending to join the race to replace Liz Truss as premier, Britain’s PA Media news agency reported allies as saying.
Johnson told UK trade minister James Duddridge that he was “up for it,” PA reported. He indicated he will run in the leadership contest despite the fact that he is still under parliamentary investigation over allegations he lied to lawmakers.
Truss resigned on Thursday, just six weeks into her disastrous term that pitched Britain deep into political and economic turmoil. Her successor will be the fifth PM to lead the country since it voted for Brexit in 2016.
Former Home Secretary Priti Patel on Saturday became on of the most high-profile supporters of Johnson in his quest to become PM. “Boris has the mandate to deliver our elected manifesto and a proven track record getting the big decisions right,” she said in a tweet.
But his possible return to the top job has split opinions within the Conservative Party, with many lawmakers horrified at the prospect of a second Johnson premiership.
Even his former deputy prime minister and foreign secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC, “we cannot go backwards” and pointed out that Johnson faces a probe into the so-called partygate scandal into illegal gatherings in Downing Street.
The former PM is expected to appear in the next few weeks before the Commons Privileges Committee which is investigating whether he misled Parliament over the parties, which could potentially see him suspended or expelled as an MP.
Graham Brady, leader of the 1922 Committee, which represents rank-and-file Conservative members of parliament, said the new PM will be chosen by next Friday. He said the candidates to replace Truss will need at least 100 nominations from the party’s MPs by 2 p.m. local time Monday. The threshold effectively narrows the field of potential candidates to a maximum of three.
If only one candidate meets that threshold, they will automatically become leader. Otherwise, an online ballot of party members will close on Friday October 28.
If he can get the required number of supporters, Johnson will join former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, who has already reached the threshold, Britain’s PA Media news agency reported Friday.
Sunak, who lost out to Truss during the final round of the previous leadership contest, has yet to formally declare his candidacy. CNN has reached out to Sunak’s representatives for comment.
Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons, has also thrown her name into the ring. Mordaunt came third in the last leadership election, just behind Truss and Sunak.
CNN’s Arnaud Siad contributed reporting.