Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson — ousted by ethics scandals just three months ago — jockeyed to make a comeback Friday as one of several contenders seeking to replace Liz Truss, whose rapid downfall threw the country’s leadership into disarray at a time of severe economic challenges.
The governing Conservative Party has ordered a lightning-fast race that aims to finalize nominations Monday and install a new prime minister, its third this year, within a week.
Johnson has not publicly declared he is running, but a political ally who spoke with him told Sky News he is “up for it” and bookmakers have made him one of the favorites to win the contest.
A return by Johnson would be an astonishing recovery for a polarizing figure forced out by a welter of ethics scandals. Opponents say giving him another chance would only lead to more controversy and disappointment.
The leadership uncertainty comes at a time of weak economic growth and as millions struggle with higher borrowing costs and rising prices for groceries, fuel and other basics. A growing wave of strikes by train and postal workers, lawyers and others has revealed mounting discontent as a recession looms.
Truss quit Thursday after a turbulent 45 days, conceding that she could not deliver on her tax-cutting economic package, which she was forced to abandon after it caused turmoil in financial markets.
House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt was the first candidate to publicly declare she is running to replace Truss, saying in a tweet Friday that she represented “a fresh start.”
Mordaunt, a straight-talking 49-year-old Royal Navy reservist who briefly served as U.K. defense secretary in 2019, is bookies’ third favorite. Outside of Conservative circles she is perhaps best known for appearing on the 2014 reality TV diving show “Splash!”
Leading the pack in lawmakers’ support, though yet to publicly declare, is former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, who was previously runner-up to Truss.