Labor ‘fears the worst’ if Boris Johnson returns: Sir Keir Starmer would face a ‘much tougher electoral challenge’, party sources warn, as ministers ‘watch closely’ the ex-PM’s moves
Sir Keir Starmer would face a ‘much tougher electoral challenge’ if Boris Johnson returns as Tory leader, Labor sources have warned.
Two shadow cabinet ministers have told the Daily Mail that the party is closely monitoring the former prime minister’s activities, amid speculation he could return.
One warned that Mr Johnson’s return could pose significant problems for Labor at the polls.
“Boris would be a much tougher electoral challenge even now,” the source said.
“Even if Partygate’s investigation finds he lied, I don’t think it would make a big difference to how he is perceived by some voters because it’s taken into account – they don’t care.
A shadow cabinet minister has warned that Mr Johnson’s return could pose major Labor problems at the polls
“He did what everyone thought was impossible in the last election and persuaded two million people who don’t vote to run.
“These people probably won’t come to us next time, but without Boris to energize them, they won’t go to the Tories either – they’ll probably stay at home.” This is going to be a huge factor in the election.
A second source said Mr Johnson’s return would not necessarily improve the Tories’ outlook but would hurt Labour.
“Boris would give us a lot more trouble in the red wall because he has an appeal there that Sunak can’t match,” the source said. “I don’t know if it would help them overall, because it would cost them a lot of votes in the South.”
“The problem for us is that the main beneficiaries of this may end up being the Lib Dems, not us.”
Mr Johnson’s former chief of staff, Lord Udny-Lister, fueled speculation of a potential return this week by saying he still had a ‘way back’ to power.
“I would never say never about Boris Johnson,” he said. “I would never say that, because I think he has huge skills. And I think there is a way back for him. But a Cabinet minister has accused Labor of ‘doing mischief’ , adding: ‘Boris’ poll results at the end were dire – that was part of the reason he had to leave.
The source said: ‘I’m not surprised Labor wants to spark the idea that he’s some sort of massive threat.
A second source said Mr Johnson’s return would not necessarily improve the Tories’ outlook but would hurt Labour. Pictured: Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer
“But he’s not coming back. The parliamentary party, apart from a few acolytes, does not want him to return. This is just malice on the part of Labour.
Labor’s analysis of the threat posed by Mr Johnson will fuel concerns that he may seek to drag out the controversial Partygate inquiry in order to keep him tied down.
Parliament’s Privileges Committee inquiry is looking into whether Mr Johnson misled MPs when he denied parties had been held in Downing Street during the Covid lockdowns.
The investigation was launched in April last year but has yet to hold a single evidentiary session with witnesses.
It is led by former Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, who has publicly criticized Mr Johnson’s conduct, leading Tory critics to complain that the former prime minister is facing a ‘kangaroo court’.
If the committee finds him guilty, it could recommend that Mr Johnson be suspended from Parliament, potentially forcing him to fight a tough by-election in his west London constituency.
Mr Johnson insisted he had not misled Parliament about Partygate.
The former prime minister said this week: ‘Anyone who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that broke lockdown rules in No 10 and then knowingly covering up illicit parties that other people were going to is strictly for the birds. ‘
He added: “And if anyone thinks like that, he’s crazy… we all thought what we were doing – or certainly I thought what we were doing – was within the rules.”