LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, the face of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, said on Thursday he will be standing as a candidate to replace Prime Minister Theresa May as Conservative leader.
Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at the JCB Headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire, Britain, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
May has said she will step down before the next phase of Brexit negotiations although she has not yet put a date on her departure.
“Of course I’m going to go for it,” Johnson told the BBC at The British Insurance Brokers’ Association.
Johnson resigned from the cabinet last July in protest at May’s handling of the exit negotiations.
The former foreign minister and Mayor of London, Johnson set out his pitch to the Conservative membership in a speech at the party’s annual conference in October – some members queued for hours to get a seat.
He called on the party to return to its traditional values of low tax, strong policing and not to follow the policies of the left-wing Labour Party.
Betting odds indicate he is the leading candidate to replace May and has a 28 percent chance of being the next prime minister.
If Johnson became prime minister it would be the latest twist in an eventful career for the man invariably referred to simply as “Boris”, known in Britain and beyond for his clownish persona and disheveled mop of blond hair.
His ability to charm people with his quick wit and eccentric style helped him shrug off a series of scandals, including his sacking from the party’s policy team while in opposition for lying about an extra-marital affair.
Johnson has a long record of gaffes and scandals. As foreign minister, he compared the French president to a World War Two guard administering punishment beatings and was caught on camera reciting a colonial-era poem in a sacred temple in Myanmar.
Several senior Conservatives are expected to enter the contest for the leadership, with the winner also becoming prime minister.
The international development minister Rory Stewart and former work and pensions minister Esther McVey have announced they will run and leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom has said she is “considering” standing.
Other possible contenders include former and current members of the cabinet, including environment minister Michael Gove, the interior minister Sajid Javid and foreign minister Jeremy Hunt.
Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison/Guy Faulconbridge