Boris Johnson to skip Tory party conference and ‘keep out of public life for a bit’

Boris Johnson - Andrew Boyers/PA Wire
Boris Johnson – Andrew Boyers/PA Wire

Boris Johnson is expected to skip the Conservative Party’s annual conference next month as he seeks a low profile in the weeks after his departure from Downing Street.

The Prime Minister will issue a call for the party to unite behind his successor as Tory leader in his farewell speech outside Number 10 on Tuesday, according to allies.

Mr Johnson is expected to focus on the lucrative speaking circuit and writing his memoirs after he resigns, rather than on making high-profile political interventions.

On Sunday, a peer and friend of the Prime Minister said Mr Johnson would spend time trying to “get hay in the loft” – a reference to making money – and “keep out of public life for a bit”.

Should Mr Johnson skip the Conservative conference, being held in Birmingham between October 2 and October 5, he would be copying an approach set by predecessors.

Both David Cameron and Theresa May declined to attend the Tory conference straight after they were forced from office in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Boris resigns - Carl Court/Getty Images
Boris resigns – Carl Court/Getty Images

But for Mr Johnson, it would have added significance given for so long he played the role of the darling of conference attendees, which helped fuel his rise to the top of British politics.

During his days as London mayor, Mr Johnson often was a thorn in Mr Cameron’s side as he courted popularity and teased a leadership run year after year at party conferences.

Friends and colleagues of Mr Johnson say he still remains sad and taken aback by his ousting from office less than three years after winning an 80-seat majority in the December 2019 election.

Over the weekend he told a Downing Street ally he was yet to complete writing the speech which will be his final address as Prime Minister, to be delivered on Tuesday morning from Downing Street.

But it appears that in the speech Mr Johnson will stress the theme of unity and the need to get behind whoever wins the Tory leadership contest.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is widely expected to beat her rival Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, to become Tory leader when the result is announced on Monday shortly after noon.

Mr Johnson was privately said by allies to be more supportive of Ms Truss’s candidacy than that of Mr Sunak, whose resignation triggered the spate of ministerial departures that saw Mr Johnson toppled.

A Number 10 source said of Mr Johnson’s farewell speech: “He will call for unity and urge the party to give Liz a chance [if she wins].

“He feels he owes it to say ‘whatever I feel has been done to me, give Liz a chance’. We can’t tear ourselves apart repeatedly.”

A final call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, is due to take place on Monday, building on what has become a close working relationship between the two men.

Johnson Zelensky - Ukraine Presidency/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock
Johnson Zelensky – Ukraine Presidency/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

Mr Johnson’s allies continue to rage at the terms of the ongoing Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he misled Parliament over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Should the Prime Minister be suspended for 10 days he could face a recall petition in his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, threatening his plans to remain an MP.

It remains unclear whether Mr Johnson would stand again for re-election at the next general election, due by 2024, or indeed remain in Parliament until then.

Mr Cameron and Tony Blair both quit the Commons shortly after stepping down as prime minister, though Theresa May has chosen to stay on as an MP.

A return to writing beckons, both completing his long overdue book on Shakespeare and writing his memoirs, which are sure to trigger a bidding war from potential publishers.

Delivering paid speeches, at the potential price tag of hundreds of thousands of pounds a go, is also expected, possibly organised via the high profile US agents Washington Speakers Bureau.

Lord Marland, a Tory peer and old friend of Mr Johnson, gave an indication of what life could hold in the near future for the departing prime minister during an LBC interview on Sunday.

Lord Marland said Mr Johnson admitted he wanted to “get hay in the loft”, which the peer translated as “go and make some money to repair his own balance sheet”.

The peer went on: “As prime minister, you earn so little money and as has been well documented, I think, he’s got a few children and a few ex-wives. So there’s quite a big bill payroll that he has to satisfy.”

Lord Marland added: “I think he’ll be in huge demand throughout the world as a speaker because he’s just got unbelievable speaking skills.

“He’s a writer, obviously, so he will doubtless go back to that. He won’t go into a range of non-exec jobs. And I think he will largely try and keep out of public life for a bit.”

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