Prime minister who wanted to be ‘world king’ said to be ‘exploring opportunities’ in the US
https://www.theweek.co.uk-Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for Prime Minister’s Questions today
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Boris Johnson is facing MPs in the House of Commons today as he tries to avert a vote of no confidence before Parliament adjourns tomorrow for recess.
“Flanked by his newly tweaked front bench”, the prime minister is attempting to “rally MPs after another tumultuous week of his premiership”, said Emily Ferguson at the i news site.
An outcry over his controversial Jimmy Savile slur against Keir Starmer has added to pressure for Johnson to resign as the Downing Street party scandal rumbles on. But the exact number of disillusioned Tory MPs who have submitted letters to trigger a vote of confidence is unknown.
Conservative donor John Armitage told the BBC today that he agreed with the assessment that Johnson was “past the point of no return”. Others have described the Tory leader as a “dead man walking”, despite renewed claims from Johnson allies that he will refuse to resign even if fined by police for breaching lockdown rules.
But if he does get the boot from his own party, what might he do next?
Johnson’s ambition as a child is reported to have been to become “world king”. The now PM also once told chat show host David Letterman that he could “technically speaking” be elected US president as he was officially a US-UK citizen.
Although Johnson has since renounced his US citizenship, he is said to harbour a desire to return to America. The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that he was “understood to be exploring opportunities” across the pond that “would allow him to make $250,000 [£184,000] per speech when he leaves office”.
“His father, Stanley, was recently overheard in the Beefsteak Club, a gentlemen’s dining club in central London, bemoaning at some length his son’s money worries,” according to the paper.
Johnson is entitled to a £155,376 salary and pays no rent for Downing Street or his official country retreat Chequers. But the London Evening Standard’s Susannah Butter noted last year that he took a “pay cut” to become PM.
While on the backbenches, he “earned £800,000 from newspaper columns, speeches, book royalties and TV”, Butter said, adding: “His prime ministerial career has come at a cost, literally, now that his extra income has dwindled.”
His predecessor Theresa May zoomed to the top of the MP pay list last year, after earning nearly £1.9m for speeches in the two years after she left Downing Street, The Mail on Sunday reported.
As well as the speech circuit, a departure from No. 10 would allow Johnson time to finish his latest book, which has been years in the writing. According to The Guardian, he signed a deal with Hodder & Stoughton to write Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius in 2015 for a reported £500,000, but “publication has been repeatedly pushed back”. In 2019, Johnson said it would “grieve” him that becoming PM meant he wouldn’t have time to “rapidly complete” the biography of the Bard.
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Before stepping into No. 10, he also had a lucrative newspaper job at The Daily Telegraph. Johnson had to quit the role when he became foreign secretary in 2016, but was immediately rehired on a salary of £275,000 a year for his weekly column when he left the Cabinet two years later.
The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson calculated that at ten hours of writing a month to bang out the 1,100-word columns, Johnson was getting “equivalent to a pay rate of £2,291/hour – or around £4.80 a word”.
As the PM now faces the need to tighten his belt, The Sunday Times said three sources claimed that Carrie Johnson had “grown weary” of the pressure on their young family, and had “privately voiced the view that it might be preferable if he were to throw in the towel”.
“She just wants to focus on her children,” said a friend, although the newspaper added that nobody was suggesting she had told her husband to resign.
Last summer, Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings claimed the Tory leader had a “clear plan” to leave office two years after the next election “at the latest”.
“He wants to make money and have fun, not ‘go on and on’,” said Cummings.
So, ultimately, “he’ll be fine”, concluded Henry Mance at the Financial Times. “The Telegraph will have him back.”
After Johnson’s “superego” has “smashed through the structures” of British democracy, Mance added, the real question is, “what about the rest of us?”