Why shouldn't Boris's name be on the Tory ballot with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, asks Daniel Johnson

Why shouldn’t Boris’s name be on the Tory ballot with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, asks Daniel Johnson

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Now that we know the next Prime Minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, was it really such a good idea to bring down Boris?

A large proportion of the 14 million people who voted Conservative at the last election have watched the midsummer madness in Westminster with growing alarm, dismay and anger.

No one asked them if they wanted Boris Johnson to be driven from office — an act of perfidy, a crime against democracy and a waste of the Tories’ greatest political talent since Margaret Thatcher.

They have rejected the man who first won the EU referendum and then got Brexit done; who won the London mayoralty twice, as well as the biggest parliamentary majority for 40 years; who accelerated vaccination and liberated us from lockdown; who conquered Corbyn and helped Ukraine to defy Putin.

Now that we know the next Prime Minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, was it really such a good idea to bring down Boris?

After a typically swashbuckling performance, Boris echoed Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator: 'Hasta la vista, baby.' Pictured: Boris Johnson speaking during his final Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon

After a typically swashbuckling performance, Boris echoed Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator: 'Hasta la vista, baby.' Pictured: Boris Johnson speaking during his final Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon

After a typically swashbuckling performance, Boris echoed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator: ‘Hasta la vista, baby.’ Pictured: Boris Johnson speaking during his final Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon

Plotters

Cabinet plotters and disgruntled Tory MPs first forced Mr Johnson to resign, then set in motion a leadership contest that now seems likely to install a far less electable Prime Minister in Downing Street.

Whether you find the parade of candidates of the past fortnight impressive or not, they all owe their seats to Boris Johnson. It was dispiriting to see them disown their chief benefactor in the TV debates.

Even worse was the failure of most candidates to defend the Government’s achievements. The public spectacle of senior Conservatives denouncing their own record has been a feast for Opposition eyes.

Labour has already spliced together a campaign video consisting entirely of comments by Tory leadership candidates attacking their own Government. Yesterday Sir Keir Starmer made use of these quotes in Prime Minister’s Questions. There will be plenty more of that.

Now Peter Cruddas, a Tory peer and businessman, has organised a petition calling for the rules to be changed so that Boris Johnson’s name can be added to the leadership ballot.

This would give party members who are dissatisfied with the choice of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss the option of voting for Boris to be reinstated.

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Yes, such a gesture would be seen as outrageous by the PM’s enemies, the media and the civil service. But Boris has defied gravity before and he remains the favourite of the great British public.

After all, Lord Cruddas’s idea may be unprecedented, but it is no more so than the events of the past few weeks. Boris has many more admirers than his critics. Some 2,000 Conservative members have already signed the Cruddas petition, while Tory Party officials have received ‘thousands’ of emails demanding Boris’s name be put on the ballot.

Before Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the race, a poll of The Mail+ readers showed 51 per cent of them thought Boris should be leader of the Tory party, compared with 20 per cent for Liz Truss and 12 per cent for Rishi Sunak.

Cabinet plotters and disgruntled Tory MPs first forced Mr Johnson to resign, then set in motion a leadership contest that now seems likely to install a far less electable Prime Minister in Downing Street. Pictured: Sir Graham Brady (centre) chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces the results of the ballot giving the final two candidates for the Conservative Party leadership

Cabinet plotters and disgruntled Tory MPs first forced Mr Johnson to resign, then set in motion a leadership contest that now seems likely to install a far less electable Prime Minister in Downing Street. Pictured: Sir Graham Brady (centre) chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces the results of the ballot giving the final two candidates for the Conservative Party leadership

Cabinet plotters and disgruntled Tory MPs first forced Mr Johnson to resign, then set in motion a leadership contest that now seems likely to install a far less electable Prime Minister in Downing Street. Pictured: Sir Graham Brady (centre) chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces the results of the ballot giving the final two candidates for the Conservative Party leadership

Before Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the race, a poll of The Mail+ readers showed 51 per cent of them thought Boris should be leader of the Tory party, compared with 20 per cent for Liz Truss (pictured) and 12 per cent for Rishi Sunak

Before Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the race, a poll of The Mail+ readers showed 51 per cent of them thought Boris should be leader of the Tory party, compared with 20 per cent for Liz Truss (pictured) and 12 per cent for Rishi Sunak

Before Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the race, a poll of The Mail+ readers showed 51 per cent of them thought Boris should be leader of the Tory party, compared with 20 per cent for Liz Truss (pictured) and 12 per cent for Rishi Sunak

No one doubts that Rishi is clever and polished, but his ability to connect with ordinary voters must be open to doubt. He has presided over Britain's highest inflation for 40 years and our highest taxes for 70.

No one doubts that Rishi is clever and polished, but his ability to connect with ordinary voters must be open to doubt. He has presided over Britain's highest inflation for 40 years and our highest taxes for 70.

No one doubts that Rishi is clever and polished, but his ability to connect with ordinary voters must be open to doubt. He has presided over Britain’s highest inflation for 40 years and our highest taxes for 70.

Lord Cruddas is in many ways reflecting membership sentiment in demanding that Boris should have his name on the ballot paper. He believes there has been ‘a coup’ against the Prime Minister.

Like many, he is outraged that Boris was forced out because of a little-known MP’s alleged impropriety and some uneaten birthday cake in Tupperware. Countless voters are with him — they fail to understand why their overwhelming verdict at the ballot box, just two-and-a-half years ago, has been ‘cancelled’ for such comparatively trivial reasons.

Lord Cruddas understands that, just as with Mrs Thatcher, the fall of Boris Johnson could damage and divide the Tory party for a generation.

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As a former Tory treasurer who has given millions to the party, he has some clout: ‘I planned to donate a total of £500,000 [to the Tories] this year,’ he warned, ‘But that is on hold and will not be paid unless the membership have a chance to vote on Boris being PM.’

Is his plan practical? In theory, it would be a simple matter for the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers to adjust their rulebook to allow members to express their support for the leader they elected only three years ago.

Would the PM welcome such an invitation to members to tell the party establishment exactly what they think of its betrayal? I don’t know, but his parting shot at his final PMQs struck a defiant note.

After a typically swashbuckling performance, Boris echoed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator: ‘Hasta la vista, baby.’ Tongue in cheek though it was, the remark implies that he will be back. I, for one, applaud the Cruddas idea, although whether it has any chance of success is debatable.

In Boris’s absence, many Conservatives, not to mention commentators like me, are deeply disappointed that Tory MPs did not see fit to put their most exciting and inspirational candidate on the ballot paper: Kemi Badenoch.

Ebullient

The former equalities minister would, had she not fallen victim to the manoeuvres of the party’s old guard, have found fresh ways and means to fulfil the magnificent mandate won by Boris in 2019.

Whoever emerges in September, polls showed that Mrs Badenoch was the new darling of the party members. It is a shame they won’t have the chance to elect her.

Like Boris, Kemi has a warmth and spontaneity that touch the voters whom other politicians cannot reach. Alone among the contenders, Mrs Badenoch has the sunny, ebullient personality to make a worthy successor to Boris. Now, we are left with the unenviable choice between Davos Man and Wonky Woman.

No one doubts that Rishi is clever and polished, but his ability to connect with ordinary voters must be open to doubt. He has presided over Britain’s highest inflation for 40 years and our highest taxes for 70.

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As long as ‘Dishy Rishi’ was splashing the cash with pandemic schemes such as furlough, he was the toast of the town. Now that the bills have come in, though, his popularity has plummeted.

The truth is that Rishi Sunak’s financial wizardry is largely a matter of smoke and mirrors. If the Conservative Party acquiesces in the myth of his competence, they will have only themselves to blame.

I have admired Liz for years. She has run several departments competently and has proved to be a courageous Foreign Secretary. Together with Ben Wallace at Defence, Miss Truss provided the diplomatic back-up for Boris’s policy of uniting the West behind Ukraine

As long as 'Dishy Rishi' was splashing the cash with pandemic schemes such as furlough, he was the toast of the town. Now that the bills have come in, though, his popularity has plummeted

As long as 'Dishy Rishi' was splashing the cash with pandemic schemes such as furlough, he was the toast of the town. Now that the bills have come in, though, his popularity has plummeted

As long as ‘Dishy Rishi’ was splashing the cash with pandemic schemes such as furlough, he was the toast of the town. Now that the bills have come in, though, his popularity has plummeted

Scrutiny

What about Liz Truss? I have admired Liz for years. She has run several departments competently and has proved to be a courageous Foreign Secretary. Together with Ben Wallace at Defence, Miss Truss provided the diplomatic back-up for Boris’s policy of uniting the West behind Ukraine.

But as a communicator, Liz Truss is just not in the same league as Boris. She is most at home in the rarefied world of think-tanks and private meetings, not the rough-and-tumble of parliamentary debate and media scrutiny.

On the strength of the contest so far, Liz Truss will struggle to connect with voters. Those voters are already beginning to lament Boris’s departure. He is pugnacious enough to take anything the Left can throw at him, and return it with interest. Even in the dying days of his premiership, we have seen how he hits for six the hardest ball that ‘Captain Crasheroonie Snoozefest’ can bowl at him.

Despite his relatively brief tenure, he has been one of the most significant Prime Ministers of modern times. His place in history is secure. Like Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, Boris Johnson made a difference. He will be remembered in 100 years, long after most politicians are forgotten.

Little wonder Lord Cruddas is manoeuvring to force the Tory party to keep him.

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