Two-thirds of public don’t want Boris Johnson to return as PM

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Almost two in three voters are against Boris Johnson becoming prime minister again in a major blow to any hopes of a comeback, new polling for has found.

Mr Johnson’s allies are keen for the former PM to return from the wilderness, replace Rishi Sunak and lead the Tory party into the general election expected in 2024.

But 63 per cent are opposed to Mr Johnson trying to lead the country again with only 24 per cent in favour of the idea, according to exclusive polling for The Independent.

The former PM’s backers believe he has “electoral magic” – but the results show that Mr Sunak is deemed more trustworthy, more economically competent and more likely to win their vote.

Some 41 per cent of voters in the Savanta Comres survey believe the current prime minister can “improve” the reputation of the Tory party, only 19 per cent said the same of Mr Johnson.

There appears little sympathy for the former prime minister over Partygate, as he prepares to face a televised grilling by MPs on the privileges committee over whether he mislead parliament about what he knew of rule-breaking parties.

A clear majority of voters (58 per cent) think should have to resign his Uxbridge and Ruislip seat if he is found to have lied over Partygate at the inquiry, set to begin as soon as next month.

Although both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were fined for attending a birthday party an No 10 in violation of Covid curbs, some 39 per cent of the public blame the former prime minister for Partygate scandal, while only 9 per cent blame Mr Sunak.

Only 14 per cent of voters think Mr Johnson can be trusted to tell the truth, while 39 per cent believe the same of Mr Sunak. On the economy, only 19 per cent trust Mr Johnson to manage the nation’s finances versus 44 per cent for the current Tory leader.

The former PM is also facing fresh questions about his finances, after it emerged that he has been gifted use of a west London home near Harrods owned by the wife of Tory donor Lord Bamford at the estimate value of £10,000 a month in rent.

Almost two-thirds of the public are against the arrangement, our poll shows. Some 62 per cent said it was “not okay” for Mr Johnson to be living in accommodation subsidised by a Tory donor.

Despite the polling, Tory peer Stephen Greenhalgh said dire local election results for the Conservatives in May could force Tory MPs to “consider their options”.

Lord Greenhalgh told The Independent: “The person Labour fears is Boris Johnson. Boris has got electoral magic. He is a winner. It’s extraordinary to have dispensed with his services.”

The former minister is a backer of fellow Tory peer Lord Cruddas’ Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), which is pushing to transfer of more powers to grassroots members over a leadership contest.

However, Chris Hopkins, director of Savanta, said the numbers showed that discussions by some Tories about bringing back Mr Johnson “should come with serious health warnings”, adding: “Boris Johnson, and to some extent Liz Truss, are responsible for the Conservatives dire polling numbers.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson declined to comment on the poll.

Some Tory MPs have warned that a push for Mr Johnson’s return to No 10 would be a disaster, with one backbencher warning that “stories about Partygate and his finances would keep on coming”.

Former cabinet minister David Davis wrote in The Independent earlier this week that any comeback risks a 1997-style landslide election defeat for the Conservatives.

Labour has called for an investigation into Mr Johnson’s finances while at No 10 after he reportedly used a millionaire relative to back an £800,000 line of credit.

The party has written to parliamentary commissioner for standards Daniel Greenberg following a report that Canadian businessman Sam Blyth acted as a guarantor for a credit facility for the then-prime minister.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman has rejected any suggestion that a conflict of interest or a breach of the MPs’ code of conduct existed, adding that he made all the “necessary declarations he was required to make”.

The Savanta ComRes survey of 2,064 adults was carried out between 13 and 15 January.