Boris Johnson resigned in July (Photo: PETER NICHOLLS via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson’s future in politics seems unclear right now.
Several weeks after announcing he would be leaving office, Johnson has still not revealed what he plans to do next, although his sign-off from his resignation speech – “Hasta la vista, baby!” – was perceived as an indication that he’ll be back at some point.
Late on Monday, The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope claimed that Johnson had even told a friend he does not want to resign, and would stay on if the Tory membership supports him.
In fact, some of his core supporters have been pushing for this and are now campaigning to reinstate him as prime minister.
But is this even possible?
Why is anyone talking about this?
Thousands of Tory members have signed a petition which would grant them the right to vote on whether to accept, or reject, Johnson’s resignation as prime minster.
So far, more than 10,000 party activists have called for Johnson’s name to be added to the ballot for the next Tory leader.
Tory peer Lord Cruddas (who set up the petition) wrote in the Daily Mail: “The ousting of Boris Johnson as prime minister by a minority of MPs is deeply anti-democratic.
“It defies the will of the country and the Conservative Party members who elected him.
“It amounts to a coup. I am ashamed that this can happen in Britain, the birthplace of modern democracy.
“If that’s what politics has become, we’re living in a nation I can barely recognise any longer.”
Those still in government are keen to quash such suggestions though.
Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey dismissed the idea that he has told allies he plans to be back in office within a year, dubbing it: “Speculation and tittle tattle.”
She said he “chose to step down” and would “continue, I’m sure, to be supportive of the next Conservative prime minister and into the next election”.
Welsh secretary Sir Robert Buckland echoed this message, saying: “His time in office is coming to an end and that means a new chapter for him and a new chapter for the Conservative Party.”
He added that a return is “unlikely”, explaining: “In modern politics, there are very few, if any, second chances. We’ve turned a page.”
Could Johnson ever return as PM? (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)
Is a return even possible?
According to the current Conservative Party rules, he is not able to put himself on the ballot for a shock return to No.10 just yet.
However, the cheerleaders who are calling for Johnson’s return claim his name could be added to the ballot under section 17 of the party’s constitution.
It says: “The board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the party. It shall oversee all activities within the party and in particular be responsible for.”
Yet, a spokesman for the Conservative Party told The Telegraph the rules of the contest have already been agreed to by the 1922 Committee party board.
Could Johnson be a Tory prime minister again in the future?
Yes – technically. He is permitted to put himself forward as a potential leader of the Conservative Party in any future leadership race, bar the one which appoints his successor.
Winston Churchill, for instance, was prime minister between 1940 and 1945, and then again between 1951 and 1955. However, the wartime leader lost his place in No.10 because the Conservatives lost the 1951 general election, not because he was ousted from office by his own MPs, like Johnson.
Could he become a cabinet member?
This is certainly possible, although No.10 has not yet lifted the lid on Johnson’s potential future in cabinet under a new leader.
Neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak, the final two candidates in the leadership race, raised their hands when asked during a TV debate if they would have him in their cabinet.
However, education secretary James Cleverly hinted that Truss might consider offering Johnson a role on Monday, if she becomes prime minister. It’s unlikely Sunak would consider a similar course, having resigned from Johnson’s government on a rather sour note earlier this month.
Is his role as MP even stable?
It all comes down to the results of an investigation led by Harriet Harman, the Labour veteran who is leading the probe into whether Johnson misled MPs over lockdown breaches throughout partygate.
This parliamentary privileges committee is investigating whether a contempt has been committed. It will then recommend what kind of sanction he should face.
This could be anything from Commons suspension for a few days to expulsion.
There’s a chance it could trigger a by-election in Johnson’s seat of Uxbridge and West Ruislip.
He also managed to hold on in the 2019 general election, with a majority of 7,210, which while comfortable, is not that safe, meaning there’s no guarantee he’ll win if his constituents hit the ballot box again.
If he was no longer an MP, he would not be able to sit in the Commons never mind take up a seat in No.10.
Others have suggested Johnson might choose to set him his own fringe party instead, although such parties tend to struggle getting representative in parliament due to the first past the post electoral system.
What does Johnson actually want?
Cruddas, who was ennobled by Johnson, told The Telegraph that the outgoing prime minister’s parting words suggest he has something up his sleeve.
He said: “I read that as ‘I’ll be back’ and I tell you now, if Boris is outside the tent, the party is going to regret this.”
Former top aide – and now vocal critic – to Johnson, Dominic Cummings, has even speculated that the prime minister wants Truss to be elected in his place.
He alleges that Johnson thinks her time in office will flop, thus making it easier for him to get back into Downing Street.
While Johnson’s loyal allies Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg have announced their support for Truss, the prime minister himself has not publicly backed any candidate since the race for Tory leadership began.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.