Mr Johnson said during a trip to Rwanda this weekend that he is “thinking actively” about fighting the next two general elections to become the longest-serving post-war leader. This was despite the Tories experiencing the largest ever overturning of a majority in British political history in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election and the resignation of multiple, once-loyal senior Tory MPs. But Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis remains steadfast next to the PM, saying his 2030 election claim shows the PM’s “zest” for his job.
Speaking to reporters on the final day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda the Prime Minister said the Government was “embarked on a colossal project to unite and level up”. The Times associate political editor Henry Zefferman posted on Twitter that the PM “wants to lead Britain into the ‘mid-2030’.”
Mr Johnson added: “I am thinking actively about the third term and what could happen then. But I will review that when I get to it.”
Mr Lewis told Sky News today he sees in Mr Johnson “drive and enthusiasm for what we want to achieve for our country”, and that kind of “zest” is to be celebrated. He argued his desire to look “long-term” when it comes to his leadership “has got to be a good thing”.
He added to LBC there is no point in the PM “pretending he’s somebody else”, after Mr Johnson insisted he will not undergo a “psychological transformation” despite pressure piling on his leadership.
In an effort to stop Tory MPs from ousting him, the PM urged them not to focus on the issues he has “stuffed up”, such as being found to have broken his own laws, accusations of corruption and of breaking the ministerial code by lying in parliament. Asked at the G7 summit in Germany on Sunday if his aspirations are delusional, Mr Johnson said: “What I’m saying is this is a Government that is getting on with delivering for the people of this country and we’ve got a huge amount to do.”
He said the “golden rule” is to “focus on what we are doing” – to address the cost of living, the “massive” plan for a stronger economy, and “making sure that the UK continues to offer the kind of leadership around the world that I know our people want”. Formerly loyal supporter of Mr Johnson Oliver Dowden stood down as Tory Party co-chairman in the wake of the by-election defeats, saying he and Conservative supporters are “distressed and disappointed by recent events” and telling Mr Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.
Labour, meanwhile, challenged the Tories to call an early election, with leader Sir Keir Starmer telling Mr Johnson: “Bring it on.”
Mr Dowden’s resignation followed that of Mr Johnson’s ethics advisor Lord Geidt, sparking controversy over whether the PM had limited the minister’s ability to recommend him on ethical conduct.
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Lord Geidt said he had been forced into an “impossible and odious” position by Mr Johnson. There are now suggestions of a challenge to change the rules of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs in order to allow another vote of confidence in Mr Johnson within the next year, after the former London mayor narrowly survived a 41 percent rebellion by his own MPs.
Mr Lewis dismissed the idea, telling Times Radio “we shouldn’t even really be talking about it”.
Criticism continues to mount on the PM from his own ranks, with Damian Green, who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, warning the Government “needs to alter both its style and content” and calling on Cabinet members with leadership hopes to show what they really think of Mr Johnson. Former minister David Davis also lashed out at the PM’s claim that the only argument of “substance” for a change of direction he has heard from his critics is for the UK to return to the EU single market. Mr Davis said this is “plainly not true of me, or many others”.
Meanwhile, Conservative think-tank bosses exclusively told Express.co.uk that Mr Johnson had “mere months” to course-correct or risk losing voters entirely.
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In the by-election in the Devon constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, a dramatic swing of almost 30percent from the Conservatives saw their 24,000 majority overturned by the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile in West Yorkshire, Labour seized back Wakefield with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7percent from the Tories.
Mr Johnson told reporters at the G7 summit: “In the immediate future we’ve got to get people through the current global inflationary pressures, the post-Covid, Ukraine-exacerbated inflationary pressures that people have got, the energy price spikes that we have got.
“But at the same time we have got a massive agenda of reform and improvement, a plan for a stronger economy, whereby we have to reform our energy markets, our housing markets, the way our transport networks run, our public sector – we’ve got to cut the cost of Government.
“We’ve got to make sure we grow our economy by reducing the burden of taxation on business and on families and have better regulation.”