'No chance' of Boris Johnson standing as MP again, Grant Shapps says

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MAY 23: Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens during a tour after a meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott at the Texas State Capitol on May 23, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Gov. Abbott met with Johnson to discuss economic development. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
The Tory party continues to grapple with the fallout of Boris Johnson's resignation as an MP on Friday. (Getty Images)

Boris Johnson does not want to stand as a Tory MP again, despite hints of a comeback in his resignation speech, Grant Shapps said on Sunday.

The energy secretary said there is "no chance" of the former prime minister attempting to return to Conservative benches, adding that he is not "in the mindset" for it.

Johnson resigned as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Friday, claiming he was the victim of a "witch-hunt" by the Privileges Committee investigating claims he repeatedly lied to Parliament over lockdown-breaking parties during the COVID pandemic.

His resignation letter had a confrontational tone, taking a swipe at the party's current leadership under Rishi Sunak, and dropping a hint of a return to politics by saying he was "sad to be leaving Parliament – at least for now".

Johnson's departure has led to a debate within the Conservative Party over whether he should be allowed to stand again, with staunch ally Jacob Rees-Mogg warning there would be "civil war" if he is blocked.

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However, Shapps told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme that the question of Johnson running again is "pretty hypothetical".

"I don’t think he is in the mindset to do that, and the party would have to go through the usual process they would through anybody.

"He's just resigned right – there is no chance of him coming back and saying, 'I'm going to stand again.' From what I understand even he's said he doesn't want to do that."

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Appearing on Sky News earlier on Sunday, Shapps said the "world has moved on" from Johnson and that "he is the one who has removed himself from the current political scene".

The fallout of Johnson's departure has opened a debate within the Conservative Party over whether he should even be allowed to stand again following the political turmoil caused under his leadership.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg delivers his keynote address during the National Conservatism conference at The Emmanuel Centre on May 15, 2023 in London, England. Traditionalist conservatives gather for their annual conference in Central London. National Conservatism values the concepts of custom, convention and tradition over individualism.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned there would be 'civil war' if Johnson was blocked from standing again. (Getty Images)

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said Johnson could "easily get back into Parliament at the next election" and is "in pole position to return as Conservative leader if a vacancy should arise".

He added: "I would most strongly warn Conservative Party managers against any attempt to block Boris if he seeks the party nomination in another seat.

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"Any attempt to do so would shatter our fragile party unity and plunge the Conservatives into civil war."

But former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine said Johnson should not be given another chance by the party, writing in The Observer: "To me it is inconceivable that in these circumstances he could stand as a Conservative member of parliament again."

Referring to the wording of Johnson's letter, Heseltine said: "Words are designed to make his audience believe whatever they want to believe. There is no anchor to any discernible truth or sense of integrity."

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, is interviewed outside BBC Broadcasting House in London. Picture date: Sunday June 11, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Moore/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shapps denied reports that a member of Rishi Sunak's team removed names from Johnson's resignation honours list months ago. (Getty Images)

Johnson stepped down as an MP hours after the publication of his prime minister's resignation honours list, which was stuffed with a number of friends and allies including Rees-Mogg, Michael Fabricant and Priti Patel.

Despite accusations of "cronyism", reports have emerged that some names on Johnson's list had been removed by a member of Rishi Sunak's team months before it was passed to the current PM for a rubber stamp.

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Asked if there is any truth to these reports, Shapps told Kuenssberg that the House of Lords Commission would have to publicise if the prime minister removed anyone from the list – which hasn't happened.

Kuenssberg continued to press him, saying: "This is a very specific question, is it true that a member of the prime minister’s team took several names of Boris Johnson’s list of people he wanted to send to the House of Lords some months ago?"

Shapps said: "My understanding is no, as far as I'm aware that’s not true."

That same morning, ITV News' political editor Robert Peston said Downing Street had taken the "highly unusual step of declassifying the list of Boris Johnson’s proposed peers that was approved by the House of Lords Appointments Commission".

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He added: "They did this to “prove” that the PM had not lied to Johnson when telling him he would approve the ex PM’s list, when they met earlier this month - and to reinforce Downing St’s claim that Sunak had not interfered to prevent Alok Sharma, Nadine Dorries or Nigel Adams receiving peerages."

However, Peston said that something does "not add up". He said the list would have been sent to Sunak in February and that the appointments commission did not want to "create a precedent of approving peerages unless the recipients would undertake to stand down as MPs and join the Lords within six months of announcement".

Despite this he claims, "Dorries, Adams and Sharma were all labouring under the illusion they COULD accept and receive the peerages without standing down as MPs more or less immediately. For weeks no one told them anything to the contrary," Peston claimed.

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"I am told Boris Johnson’s office tried and failed to get clarification on this for weeks from the Cabinet Office. Dorries was actually told by a minister she trusts - and on several occasions - that the Cabinet Office did not want her to stand down and there was no need to do so," he added.

"Dorries is understandably livid. Sharma is 'distraught'. And Adams, like Dorries, has manifested his fury by standing down immediately, and doing precisely the opposite of what Sunak would have wanted.

"It is profoundly messy. As of this moment, it is not completely clear whether this was a cock up or a conspiracy."