Why is Boris Johnson (who doesn't necessarily have the type for it) donning an RAF pilot's uniform reminiscent of Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick, and making the front page of every conservative press? Because neither he nor his people are resigned to the fact that, despite having been forced to resign in a somewhat humiliating manner, the last word of his political career has been written.
If his admired Winston Churchill returned to 10 Downing Street in 1951, after losing to Clement Atlee in the 1945 election, why can't he? And if Donald Trump remains the de facto ideological leader of the Republican Party, why can't he, in the future, be the British Conservatives? Especially if Labor comes to power, and the party enters an existential crisis even more acute than the one it already has on the psychoanalyst's couch.
Emotionally, say those closest to him, the hypothesis that he can still fight (and eventually return) is helping Johnson overcome the blow of his spectacular fall, due to a mixture of dishonesty (Downing Street parties during the pandemic), support to deputies accused of sexual abuse, lies to cover up their mistakes, laziness, lack of attention to detail and ideological confusion (it was never clear if he was in favor of lowering taxes or of a large state that intervened in the economy, or of all this at the same time even if it were contradictory).
For the moment, the former prime minister has withdrawn into the background (or third) plane, not even showing up to the meetings of the Cobra Committee (National Security Council), squeezing the most out of the privilege of using the Checkers mansion in the countryside English, a bargain that will run out in September, and making visits to the Royal Air Force base in Lincolnshire, where he dressed up as Tom Cruise, a good poster in case he returns one day (idea of a right-wing politician's manual, already George Bush did it after the war in Iraq, and that as a young man he had used considerable family influences not to be drafted for the war in Vietnam).
What Johnson has not been able to resist is putting his spoon into the battle for the Tory leadership, throwing garbage at former Economy Minister Rishi Sunak (one of those who stabbed him) and shamelessly sponsoring the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who was faithful to him until the end and has enough points to be his successor (first she has to beat Penny Mordaunt in the sieve that the Tory parliamentary group is making).
For the time being, the candidates remaining in the race to succeed him have ruled out early elections, but his desire is one thing and realpolitik another. If the crisis of inflation deepens, the economy goes into recession, the impact of the war in Ukraine is felt even more, supplies are short and the government imposes a maximum temperature in buildings in the winter, an elected prime minister only by 175,000 Tory militants, almost all white and with an average age of 57, would probably lack, without going to the polls, the necessary mandate to make difficult decisions, face dilemmas such as whether to lower or raise taxes, spend public money or go back. to the policies of austerity and cuts, big state or small state.
That debate is at the heart of the succession battle, bloodier than Game of Thrones. They all proclaim themselves Thatcherites (the only way to get grassroots support), but the ex-chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak would leave fiscal relief for later, once the inflation problem is solved, while the rest would do it now, without worrying due to the increase in public debt or the pressure on interest rates. Truss would annul the increases in social security and corporate tax rates to cover the pandemic aid.
The Conservative Party is bound to decide (if not now after the next election) whether it wants a leader along the lines of Cameron or Trump. And if he is a populist like Trump, Johnson is on board. You never know.