Boris Johnson: Here's what the outgoing Prime Minister could do next – Ian Swanson

Boris Johnson's “hasta la vista, baby” flourish as he left the Commons chamber after his final Prime Minister’s Questions was taken as a not-so-subtle hint that he was already plotting a comeback.

By Ian Swanson
Monday, 1st August 2022, 4:45 pm

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But should we seriously believe the outgoing premier thinks he can make Arnold Schwarzenegger's “see you later” anything more than an ironic farewell?

He has distanced himself from a petition signed by over 10,000 Tory members calling for his name to be added to the ballot paper for the leadership contest alongside Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

London's Madame Tussauds shows Boris Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street, but what's next for the Prime Minister? (Picture: J Hordle/INhouse Images)

But another theory is that he expects Ms Truss to become leader and then make such a mess of it that he'll be back in Number Ten within a year.

However, while there may be a sizeable section of the party membership that wishes he’d continued in office, he does not enjoy that level of support among Tory MPs.

He is no longer the vote winner they chose to lead them in 2019, which is why they wanted rid of him. So he cannot bid for a comeback coronation as his ally Donald Trump seems to be attempting in America.

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So what will Johnson do next? Former Prime Ministers often make a lot of money from the lucrative lecture circuit. And Johnson could resume his weekly Daily Telegraph column, for which he was paid £275,000 a year.

It has also been suggested he could follow in former Chancellor George Osborne's footsteps and become editor of London's Evening Standard, which is, after all, owned by Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian businessman he gave a seat in the House of Lords despite security concerns raised by MI6.

And it's a safe bet that he will want to write extensively about his three years in power in a bid to ensure his account becomes the accepted version of events, copying his hero Winston Churchill who said bluntly that history would be kind to him because he intended to write it.

But will he try to remain a political player? We know he's not going to be offered a job in a Truss or Sunak Cabinet. Will he carry on as an MP, voters-permitting?

There would certainly be advantages for him in continuing a Commons career. It provides a steady substantial income and he need not attend all the time. He will have staff to see to the constituency work and his occasional appearances in the chamber would become talking points and give him a platform for pet causes.

Could he do an Alex Salmond and set up a new party? Despite his downfall, he still has the strong support of some colleagues, such as Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg, but whether such people look like the figureheads of a successful new movement is debatable. And the record of new parties – Mr Salmond’s Alba and the short-lived Change UK – is not encouraging.

As the Tory party tears itself apart choosing his successor, Johnson is making the most of his remaining period in office – hosting leaving parties at Chequers and taking the controls of a Typhoon fighter jet – fully aware that these really are his last days as PM. However much he would like to use Schwarzenegger’s other famous line, he knows he’ll not be back.