Boris Johnson ducks comeback questions as he seeks to mark out legacy

Prime minister urges people to have hope cost of living crisis will ease as he uses final week in office to highlight achievements

Boris Johnson has not denied setting his sights on a political comeback after he leaves Downing Street, as he sought to cement his legacy in his final week as prime minister.

On the first of a flurry of visits to mark what he will paint as key achievements of his administration, Johnson faced questions about his future after No 10.

He deflected and spoke about the rollout of faster broadband, also urging people to have hope that the worsening cost of living crisis will get better in 2023.

Close friends of Johnson have said he believes he has been forced out before his time and thinks MPs will come to regret moving against him in early July.

Asked if he could make a comeback, Johnson told reporters: “I think on the whole people in this country are more interested in their gigabit broadband than they are in the fate of this or that politician.”

When pressed on whether he regretted the way he dealt with sleaze and misconduct allegations, Johnson said: “All those things have to be handled carefully and sensitively and we have processes for dealing with them, and people who have complaints should raise them in the normal way.”

Johnson declined to give himself a rating out of 10 for his term in office, but, speaking during a visit to Dorset, he admitted his replacement as prime minister would have to announce additional support to help people with the cost of living.

“It is going to be tough in the months to come,” said Johnson, adding that the strain on living standards would last “through to next year”.

However, he blamed “Putin’s war” and was optimistic about the future.

“We’re going to get through,” he said. “I just want to give people a sense of hope and perspective.”

The frontrunner in the Tory leadership race, Liz Truss, has refused to reveal details of what emergency support payments she could announce this winter, given the 80% rise in the energy price cap for households. But Johnson said whether Truss or Rishi Sunak won the contest there would be a “further package of support for helping people with the cost of energy”.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Rory Stewart predicted earlier this week that Johnson could try to run again for office.

Stewart, who ran against Johnson for the Tory leadership in 2019, likened the outgoing prime minister to former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has announced his desire to return to politics in next month’s elections after a career mired in scandal.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Stewart said: “I’m afraid he has an extraordinary ego and he believes that he was badly treated. He doesn’t see the reality, which is that he was a terrible prime minister and that he lost his job because of deep flaws of character.”

New polling by YouGov found that 63% of people believed Tory MPs did the right thing by removing Johnson by putting pressure on him to quit, compared with 15% who disagreed. However, Conservative voters were found to be more torn: 38% said it had been the right thing to do, while 40% disagreed.


Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent and Pippa Crerar Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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