'How on earth?': Jacob Rees-Mogg sparks backlash over pro-Boris Johnson slogan

Jacob Rees-Mogg's social media post saying it is
Jacob Rees-Mogg's social media post saying it is "Boris or bust" for the Conservative Party. (@Jacob_Rees_Mogg/Twitter)

The latest Tory leadership saga is only a day old, but Jacob Rees-Mogg has already sparked a backlash.

The controversial minister has thrown his support behind Liz Truss’s predecessor Boris Johnson with a slogan suggesting the party’s future prospects are intrinsically linked to Johnson becoming prime minister again.

Rees-Mogg posted a graphic on social media reading “I’m backing Boris” with a hashtag “#BORISorBUST”.

In doing so, he became the first cabinet minister to publicly support Johnson - who has not declared if he will stand in the contest - and the post prompted a backlash from former minister Tim Loughton, who asked “how on earth” that slogan could be helpful to the party.

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The East Worthing and Shoreham MP said: “I would not use the tag line #BorisandBust [sic] and you really should think this through properly if you have any interest in party unity.”

Nadine Dorries, who like Rees-Mogg is a diehard Johnson loyalist, claimed she had spoken to the former PM following Truss’s resignation and hinted strongly that he was preparing to run.

She also suggested it was Johnson or "bust", telling Sky News: "He is a known winner and that is certainly who I’m putting my name against because I want us to win the general election. Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive.”

It comes amid bitter divisions in the parliamentary Tory party about its future direction, with other former colleagues speaking out against Johnson's potential candidacy.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson pledges allegiance to the King as the House of Commons in London, met for the first time since the Queen's funeral. Picture date: Wednesday September 21, 2022. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson, who returned to the backbenches last month, is reportedly considering whether to enter the Tory leadership contest just seven weeks after he was replaced as prime minister. (PA)

Speaking to the News Agents podcast, Robert Jenrick, a former minister for Johnson, raised the "serious questions about competence, credibility, and ethics".

He added: "Does the Conservative Party want to go back to that?”

Foreign Office minister Jesse Norman went as far as saying his return would be “catastrophic”.

He said: “Choosing Boris now would be - and I say this advisedly - an absolutely catastrophic decision.”

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Former Johnson-era environment secretary George Eustice also said on Friday: “The reason Boris Johnson resigned in the end is that half of his own government ministers had resigned from his government, saying they had no confidence in him.

“I don’t see how it’s possible for him to find a route back just two months later.”

Penny Mordaunt, a member of Truss's government, became the first MP to announce her candidacy on Friday.

The new Tory leader - and PM - will be announced on Friday next week following a fast-tracked leadership contest.