OK, it might sound a little fanciful, but hear me out. I think there could just be a way for Boris to scrape back in to power. Some Johnson loyalists in Westminster think that whoever replaces him will implode, that there could be another leadership race before the 2024 election and that Boris could run and win. That seems like wishful thinking. Instead, I’d suggest he plays the long game. It’s a little convoluted and involves quite a few what-ifs – but if anyone can do it, it’s the great greased piglet himself.
Step one: take over the Evening Standard. The ailing London paper has been in trouble for some time. It recorded a £14 million loss last year even after the majority of commuters returned post-Covid. The job of editor is vacant after Emily Sheffield, sister-in-law to David Cameron, stepped down last year. Few can see how the Standard can turn its fortunes around. Who better than Boris to reinvigorate a paper whose masthead bears the image of a Greek love god?
There have already been murmurs that he could get a column at the Mail. That would be serious money. But why not a whole paper? Yes, it’ll be more work, but no doubt he could delegate most of the boring stuff. What’s more, the outgoing PM is famously chummy with proprietor Evgeny Lebedev (one of the many minor scandals that dogged Boris’s leadership involved Lebedev’s elevation to the Lords). With a bit of extra bunce and Boris’s proven record as an editor, the Standard could be turned into a national institution once again.
Step two: Rishi wins the leadership race in September and becomes Prime Minister. Boris can skewer his one-time chancellor like no one else, giving us a blow-by-blow report of how Sunak buggered the national accounts. It would be unmissable. Imagine Dominic Cummings’s Substack but with even more gossip, written by one of the finest journalists of a generation. It would also give Boris a chance to write the first draft of history. Yes, he may have had a glass of wine or two after work, but who didn’t? He never expected the rules to be executed in such a draconian manner; proof of the petty bureaucratic mindset that has held Britain back for so long. The new editor could also set a couple of reporters digging into the members of Sunak’s cabinet (if anyone knows where the skeletons are buried, it’s Boris). Maybe Carrie would be a dab hand at the home interiors and lifestyle section? Meanwhile, Rishi keeps taxes high as inflation soars to double-digits. Boris can throw rock after rock at Downing Street while using the full force of a newsroom to undermine the government.
Boris Johnson is made honorary mayor of Odessa. He flies over to Ukraine every other week to meet up with his old buddy Volodymyr Zelensky. Perhaps he’ll recreate the famous Churchill image of the wartime leader holding a Tommy gun. Boris, grinning ear-to-ear, anti-tank missile slung over his shoulder, while stingy Rish quietly cuts the cash to Ukraine. He steps down as an MP, arguing that his job running a newspaper and advising Zelensky doesn’t give him enough time to focus on his constituency of Uxbridge. He’s pictured sharing a glass of wine and some cheese with Zelensky. The nation chuckles. With the 2024 general election looming, everyone can see Sunak is unable to get the economy back on track in time.
Step three: Starmer wins. Labour takes the reins as a minority government (Uxbridge goes red) just as Northern Ireland is heating up. The Assembly is set to vote against the Protocol in December 2024, a clause ensured by Boris himself in the original Brexit negotiations. To stave off a full no deal and to keep the Lib Dems on side (who are supporting Labour’s domestic reforms), Prime Minister Starmer agrees to take Britain back into the Customs Union and Single Market. Meanwhile, Liz Truss has taken over as Conservative opposition leader after Rishi Sunak’s defeat. Unwilling to embrace a full no-deal Brexit, but also unable to support Starmer’s re-entry to the EU orbit, Truss argues for a classic Brussels fudge. Boris, by contrast, makes the case for a full-fat, no-deal Brexit. He tried to make it work, he argues in his newspaper’s pages, but Sunak and Starmer have wrecked his delicate Brexit deal.
Labour is haemorrhaging supporters, Leave inclined voters who had switched to Boris only to reluctantly return to the Labour fold in 2024 are abandoning the party. But Truss is nowhere to be seen. She’s a poor public communicator, held back by her inability to satisfy the Tory right now Brexit has been betrayed. Meanwhile, the Evening Standard keeps pumping out stories about questionable elements of her private life. At Tory conference 2026, ten years on from Brexit, Boris goes down a storm. His fringe event is packed while the main hall remains half empty. Zelensky makes a surprise appearance at Boris’s side. Outgoing French President Emmanuel Macron attempts to undermine Britain’s re-entry to the Customs Union and Common Market, humiliating Starmer further.
By 2027, everyone can see that Truss isn’t working. She’s unconvincing on the stump and has been unable to capitalise on Labour’s pro-Brussels implosion. Starmer, a wooden performer at the best of times, is still able to wrongfoot the Tory opposition leader at PMQs. The Conservatives trail Labour in every opinion poll. Meanwhile, members of Starmer’s cabinet are openly discussing the prospect of a referendum to fully rejoin the EU. The Tory right becomes ever more agitated. Boris publishes his much-delayed biography of Shakespeare, which immediately shoots to the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list. The Evening Standard gives it five stars.
Step four: Kemi Badenoch, Truss’s shadow home secretary, resigns saying that the Conservatives need a proven winner to save Brexit and reverse the party’s fortunes. One of the few remaining Red Wall MPs steps down, triggering a by-election. Boris runs, turning a troubled Tory marginal into a safe seat once again. He challenges Truss to the leadership, winning resoundingly. Johnson steps down as Evening Standard editor (the paper’s circulation is up nearly 50 per cent and is financially back in the black). Step five: with 18 months to go before the next election, Boris makes the case for a full no-deal Brexit followed by a new trade agreement negotiated from the bottom up. Britons, sick of over a decade of instability and unwilling to face the prospect of another EU referendum, plump for Boris. The Conservatives regain power in 2029 with a slim majority. Boris Johnson re-enters Downing Street.
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