Boris Johnson refuses to rule out return to front-line politics

Boris Johnson makes his way towards West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada
Boris Johnson makes his way towards West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada - The Canadian Press

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a return to front-line politics amid growing speculation that he could stand as an MP again.

The former prime minister told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington that he could re-enter politics if he felt he had “something to contribute”.

Asked if he would stand again as an MP, he said: “I think it’s unlikely in the short-term. I think the only circumstances in which anybody should stand for election is if they have something to contribute.”

Mr Johnson resigned as MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip last year, nearly a year after standing down as prime minister, ahead of a publication of a report into parties during the pandemic at Downing Street under his tenure.

He has described the report as a “kangaroo court”.

Mr Johnson, 59, was speaking to an audience at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

He was introduced, in accordance with American custom, by the moderator as “prime minister Boris Johnson”.

“I love the way you call me prime minister. It’s a courtesy that doesn’t exist in the United Kingdom,” he said, joking that “it might come in handy”.

He also warned that Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Kyiv would be a “catastrophe” bigger than Vietnam for American leadership on the world stage.

He said he was “praying” Republicans in Congress would end the blockade of around $60 billion in funding for Ukraine, saying: “The situation is grim and the delay is terrible.”

Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council in Moscow
Boris Johnson warned that Vladimir Putin's seizure of Kyiv would be a "catastrophe" - Sputnik/Aleksey Babushkin/Kremlin/Via Reuters

Mr Johnson went on to warn that the Russian president’s ultimate goal was to “get Kyiv”. He said: “He wants to take control of the whole country.”

He continued: “If that happens, I think it would be an absolute catastrophe for the West, and a catastrophe for America and for any concept of American leadership.

“I think it would be a reverse bigger than Vietnam,” he said, “because this would be Nato, after 75 years of success, that had failed for the first time in a European war.”

He added that the West’s chaotic 2021 “retreat from Afghanistan will be nothing compared to Russia winning in Ukraine. Nothing.”

During the more than hour-long “fireside chat”, Mr Johnson argued that there was no feasible peace deal the Ukrainians could strike to end the fighting.

He said: “There’s no deal they can see they can do with Putin. I mean, nobody comes up to me furtively and says, ‘oh, but you know, by the way, we could trade this and this and let’s cut a deal’. Nobody suggests that.”

A Ukrainian serviceman from Azov brigade on the front line in the Donetsk region
A Ukrainian serviceman from Azov brigade on the front line in the Donetsk region - AP

However, Mr Johnson argued there are ways through for Putin to “end this thing” and still be able to “claim some sort of moral victory”.

Mr Johnson went on to express optimism that Donald Trump would abandon his isolationist rhetoric over Russia’s war in Ukraine should he regain the White House in November’s election.

“I really can’t believe that any American president or incoming American president is going to want that to happen on his watch,” Mr Johnson said.

Mr Trump, 77, has previously said he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any Nato member that doesn’t meet its defence spending commitments.

But Mr Johnson said: “When you look at the substance of what Trump did in the White House on foreign policy, you can make a case for quite a lot of it”.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Johnson stressed that his suspicion was that Mr Trump would not abandon Ukraine to Russia.